With doom and gloom about the property market splashing across our national press almost daily, reporting (mostly factually) the dire economic circumstances prevailing upon all of our investment markets, property investors are in for as rough a ride as anyone - and in some cases, perhaps a rougher one.

And so, no doubt, the opportunists will reveal themselves in their droves, inventing a plethora of clever schemes which prey upon the weakened emotional state of people who are looking for the quick fix. They will be slick, ultra prepared and uber-confident, showing a sales ability which, if bottled, could create a small fortune for the sales training market. And sadly, they will be believed by people who would otherwise make astute decisions, simply because they are plausible, and they have what seems like an immediate solution.

Just how can anyone tell the difference between good and evil, and is there really a good way to spot a scam or risky opportunity?

How to spot the con
Neil Jenman, who is a consumer advocate and has spent years uncovering the worst scams, said: "When you learn the characteristics of a con, you'll be better able to spot a scam no matter what it involves." Jenman believes that there are seven steps to ensuring that you're not caught by a scam or an investment opportunity that's riskier than it looks:

1. Imagine everyone is out to cheat you. If you think you're going to be conned, it makes it harder for the one conning to do so.
2. Watch out for any scheme asking for money before a service is delivered. Get the service or product first, then pay the money, or at the very least pay the money as the service is being delivered. 
3. Imagine the worst-case scenario - sort of like a 'what would happen if it goes awry?' You will then be able to imagine what that would do to you and whether it's something you could manage.  
4. Assess the quality of the company and their marketing. Most legitimate companies will have high-quality materials and websites. "In the recent fake Olympic ticketing scam, the website had spelling errors - for example 'guaranteed' was spelt 'guranted' and a notation read 'If you want the opening ceremony tickets to be delivered on an urgent bases [sic]'. "Not all crook spellers are crooks but many crooks seem to be crook spellers," said Jenman.

To read the full article, check out the latest issue of Your Investment Property magazine, on sale now.

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