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Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals [Hardcover]

Christopher Elliott
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 27, 2011
A leading consumer advocate reveals how to protect your money, time, and integrity from corrupt businesses

Once upon a time store prices were simple and fair, businesses stood behind their products with guarantees free of fine print and loopholes, and companies genuinely seemed to care about their valued customers—but those days are long gone. In this groundbreaking exposé, consumer advocate Christopher Elliot reveals the broken relationship between American consumers and businesses and explains how companies came to believe that fooling their customers was a viable, and profitable, business plan.

Scammed explores how companies control information to mislead, distort the truth, and even outright lie to their consumers.

  • Exposes the various ways companies have led their war against information—from seductive ads, disingenuous fine print, and unconventional promotions that involve seeding discussion forums and blogs with company-friendly comments
  • Offers consumers insider knowledge of the system, reasonable expectations, and a clear understanding of the games businesses play
  • Christopher Elliott is one of the nation's foremost consumer advocates

Protect yourself, your time, and your money from the predators of the consumer world. Armed with knowledge, readers will become far more discerning and every business's worst nightmare.

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Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals + How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle)
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Maybe not. As longtime journalist and customer advocate Christopher Elliott reveals in Scammed, sometimes today's con-jobs arrive via poorly spelled spam or fast-talking hustlers, and sometimes they come from well-dressed MBAs, intricate legal contracts, or management-approved corporate policies. Scammed shows how many businesses manipulate and mislead in order to not give you what you paid them for. You'll discover how you can protect yourself from this unfair behavior. If you feel doomed to suffer hidden fees, escape clauses, and shoddy products, Scammed gives you the tools to fight back, make yourself heard, and have your complaints resolved on the double.

Learn the latest techniques businesses use to give you a bad deal, as well as their most effective countermeasures. Scammed pulls back the curtain on:

  • How companies shape online perception, including "reputation management," "sock puppet" reviews, content mills, and "black-hat" search engine techniques

  • Typical hidden clauses in end-user software licenses, credit card contracts, and other customer agreements

  • The behavioral science behind sophisticated customer manipulation, and how to recognize and correct for it

  • How to find good, fair-dealing companies and guard against bad ones

  • Real-life stories of customers successfully fighting bad deals, and how they did it

  • Effective techniques for communicating with companies and accelerating their response to your problem

  • And more

From the Back Cover

Praise for Scammed

"Christopher Elliott is every consumer's best friend. I count on Chris to be the first place I turn to when looking for the latest gotchas. Not only is he smart and easy to read, but more importantly, his passion for saving people money and fighting for fair play come across in every paragraph."
Bob Sullivan, author of Gotcha Capitalism

"Scammed is a book that immediately grabbed my attention and never let go. It's eye-opening and incredibly relevant to how we live today. Read this book in one sitting because it's information that you need now!"
Joe Calloway, author of Becoming a Category of One

"Christopher Elliott's deep-seated concern is for the consumer. He stands up and says what needs to be said."
Richard Laermer, coauthor of Punk Marketing

"Christopher Elliott has written a groundbreaking exposé about the dysfunctional relationship between American businesses and consumers. Not only does he describe who's responsible for this mess—he succinctly explains how to fix the problem."
Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles County District Attorney

"With another scam around every corner—some a lot sneakier than others—Scammed is a great handbook to understanding the threats we all face as consumers. Knowledge is our power."
Mitch Lipka, consumer columnist, The Boston Globe and editor of

Most of us wouldn't buy that bridge in Brooklyn that some guy wants to sell us. We wouldn't wire money to people who send us an email that promises to shower us with millions once they save a Nigerian diplomat. Used car salespersons? Not our friends. We're savvy customers who can spot a fast one, right?

Shady dealers expect you to resign yourself to getting burned. Restore your power as a customer, make better choices, demand what you pay for, and hold onto your money with Christopher Elliott's winning advice. Don't get scammed; get Scammed, and get wise!

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118108000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118108000
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Elliott is a journalist and consumer advocate.

His articles, columns and essays offer advice for people who want to become more informed customers.

Elliott is National Geographic Traveler's reader advocate and a nationally syndicated columnist through Tribune Media Services, which distributes his columns to publications from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Chicago Tribune.

He writes a column for The Washington Post's travel section and is a personal finance columnist for

He's the author of the 2011 book Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals (Wiley).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I first came across Christopher's writings on CNN, I found them interesting, and started following his blog. I became even more of a fan when I emailed him for assistance with a problem and surprisingly got not only a response but a fast response.

When his book came out, I had a feeling it was going to be pretty good. I was expecting some more stories about other consumer's that got scammed, however this book talks more about how to be a smart consumer, gives some interesting statistics, and also covers some of Christopher's own experiences as well as his background, which was a nice fill in, if your familiar with his work.

This is the kind of book, that you can read chapter after chapter without wanting to put it down. Its packed with consumer advise, tricks corporations and businesses will try to pull, as well as a number of humorous points. In the book you will learn the do's and don'ts when you want your complaint resolved, and Christopher tells this in a unique way, in which even the experienced consumer will like.

As a business owner with strong customer service values I really enjoyed and highly recommend this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important read!!! Highly recommended! December 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read Christopher Elliot's blog and have learned a great deal about what not to do when dealing with travel agencies, airlines and the like from following him. I bought his book kind of on a whim because I wanted something interesting to read when I traveled on New Year's weekend. The book came yesterday and I read it before I ever traveled. It's that good and that educational.

I always knew about rigged reviews (even here on Amazon) and usually only read the negative ones, but now know about SEO's and some of the ways big business manipulates all of us and outright lies to us to make sales. Loyalty programs? Well, not anymore for me!!!

I wish I can put into a couple of paragraphs how good, how interesting and how educational this book is....I mean in many ways it just confirmed things I sort of believed but wasn't sure if they were true (ie. which companies have the longest hold times (if I remember right, Continental Airlines wins that distinction) and even why emailing a company is better than calling (or doing both is better?)

I am going to read the book again because the amount of information was so vast and I want to absorb it all. This is a great read and, honestly, I know it will make me a better consumer and avoid being scammed or conned.

The only negative to this book, for me, is that there wasn't an index in the back. I am giving it five stars because it really has so much information and is so easy and enjoyable to read, but I never understand why so many non-fiction books don't add indices. It just makes references things in the book that much easier.

Still, I highly, highly recommend the book!!!!
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Are all the other reviewers his friends? June 6, 2012
By Crocuta
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Seriously, who doesn't know this stuff?! Admittedly, I'm only about half way through this book, but that's about as far as I'm going to get because... well, I have so many really good books to read. There are no big secrets here. Airlines add extra charges... someone didn't know that? Banks find excuses to add fees to credit card accounts... if you didn't know that, you've been living under a rock. Companies try to get themselves listed highly in Google searches. Really? I hadn't heard. I mean, really, these are secrets? Hearing this is going to save me money?

In fact, I'm looking back through the book now, just to be sure I'm not being unfair. Here are a few examples of what I'm complaining about. In an early chapter in which he is talking about 'how businesses are scamming us', he has a section titled, 'what to do about it'. Now, wouldn't you think he might -- oh, I don't know -- tell you what to do about it? No, he just rants some more, concluding that, "...we instinctively know better than to look to the captains of industry for guidance. So why do we act surprised when any company rips us off?" So what happened to telling us what to do about it? The section is called, 'what to do about it'. How can you call it that and then not tell us what to do about it? And it goes on like that, at least as far as I got. The book seems to me to be one big rant and, despite the author promising practical advice, he never seems to give any. I did flip back through and found this specific piece of advice. "The takeway? Be Skeptical. Very skeptical." That's great advice, but I needed someone else to tell me that? Okay, in fairness, there are some survey results showing that lots and lots of us, business-owners and consumers, are liars and cheats.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great January 8, 2012
By Charles
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I regularly read Chris Elliott's blogs at [...] and posts to Frommers. Those posts are usually discussions about specific cases of customer service problems and occasionally scams. This book contains much more discussion about how modern marketing works and how big companies and scam artists alike manipulate us to give them our money. While it was interesting material, I found it a bit dry and wished for more concrete examples.

As a previous reviewer said, "three stars for the book, plus one for the website." I am content that this purchase helped support Chris's other work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Chris Elliot is the foremost authority on the Customer Service...
I have followed Chris and his column the Travel Troubleshooter for years when I was on the road for work. Read more
Published 14 months ago by D.Korb
4.0 out of 5 stars Good as far as it goes
Good, but certainly have gone into lots of other common scams. Informative, but not comprehensive. Definitely worth reading, and goes into everyday scams we all probably see in our... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Debra B Croft
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is never popular
This book tells is like it is- the truth about how search engines and businesses can "stuff the ballot box" to make things in their favor. Read more
Published on April 21, 2012 by slim
5.0 out of 5 stars Scams, Cons & Cheats -- Exposed!
This book gives a modern take on one of the world's oldest professions; tricking people out of their hard earned money. Read more
Published on March 27, 2012 by Sharon Geltner
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book makes you pay attention
This book makes me pay more attention to the things that are going on around me. You have to stop and think about stuff, especially when it sounds like an amazing deal. Read more
Published on March 21, 2012 by Bruce Murray On Travel
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended
Clearly and engagingly written.

No matter how savvy you are, this book can teach you handy tricks for outwitting companies of all kinds. Read more
Published on February 22, 2012 by S. ONEILL
5.0 out of 5 stars We've all been scammed; admit it
Some readers may be a bit leery over paying any sum to read a book entitled, "Scammed." After all, it would be so easy for an author to borrow what he exposes. Read more
Published on February 21, 2012 by mariwinn
5.0 out of 5 stars DON'T GET SCAMMED. GET WISE!
This book is definitely NOT a scam!

If you buy it, read it, and apply some of its suggestions, you may recover your investment (the book's cost) many times over. Read more
Published on January 30, 2012 by EeeVee
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have for the Novice or even Seasoned Consumer
I forget exactly when I began following Chris online a few years back (via his blog, Washington Post columns, etc) but am glad that I did. Read more
Published on January 20, 2012 by W. Smith Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Ugly Stories With a Happy Ending for Consumers
I couldn't put this book down as story after ugly story revealed amazingly artful, sometimes amusing, and often aggravating scams. Read more
Published on January 19, 2012 by anireader
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