Top 10 Consumer Myths

1. You have a three-day right to cancel any purchases.

FACT: The three-day right to cancel exists for only a limited number of consumer transactions. For the most part, the federal protection applies to credit or cash transactions of $25 or more initiated through face-to-face contact (like door-to-door sales) away from the seller's regular place of business. The three-day right to cancel provision does not cover vehicle purchases.

2. A store has to give you a refund if you request one.

FACT: Most states do not have laws specifically regulating refund or return policies. Businesses may set their own return policy. They can offer consumers cash, credit slips, exchanges or no adjustment at all. Many stores also set time limits during which they accept returns.

3. When you receive an "Award Notification," you are a guaranteed winner.

FACT: One of the most common types of fraud involves phony prize offers. Although it is tempting to think you could be a winner, proceed very cautiously. No matter how they're packaged, these offers almost always cost you money. It's not a prize if you must make a purchase, provide a donation or send an advance payment for taxes, handling fees or processing charges.

4. There is a Lemon Law that protects you on all big-ticket items you purchase, including used cars not under warranty.

FACT: Almost all states have lemon laws that cover new car purchases. But there is no universal "lemon law" that applies to all big-ticket items. You should investigate the history of the used car or product and have it checked out by a mechanic or someone knowledgeable of the product before purchasing. Some states have lemon laws that pertain to some used cars.

5. When you are solicited by a charity, almost all of the money you contribute must go to the intended charitable purpose.

FACT: Charitable organizations are not obligated to spend a certain percentage on their charitable purpose. Charities that hire professional fund-raisers will have higher overhead costs to meet, so may spend less on the actual cause. Consumers should ask if the person soliciting is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity and what percentage of the donation will actually go to the charity.

6. Giving out your credit card number for identification or other similar purposes is "okay" as long as you don't authorize a charge on your account.

FACT: Allowing your credit cards to be used for identification purpose can sometimes be a costly mistake. Con artists with access to your credit card number and expiration date may make unauthorized charges against your card. Using your credit card to place catalog orders, make hotel reservations or make other types of purchases from familiar, established businesses is usually fine; credit card charge back procedures can even help protect you if you have difficulty receiving the product or service.

7. You have a better chance of winning a publisher's sweepstakes when you purchase magazines.

FACT: It is illegal for sweepstakes promotions to require any type of purchase or payment. Entrants who do not purchase magazines must be given the same chance of winning publishers' sweepstakes as those who do make purchases.

8. People cannot take money directly from your checking account without your written authorization.

FACT: Merely giving someone your checking account number may result in their making withdrawals from your account. People can sometimes issue a "demand draft" to your bank, claiming you authorized the withdrawal, and the bank may pay it even though it lacks your signature. You may not know this has happened until you receive your next statement.

9. Only those to whom you've applied for credit or given permission can look at your credit report.

FACT: Potential employers, landlords, insurers and others may also look at your credit report, and many actually do.

10. Advertisements you see or hear on the radio, TV, in newspapers and magazines are accurate or they would not be allowed in the mainstream media.

FACT: There is no government requirement that advertisements be submitted to any public agency for advance review. Also, the media generally doesn't investigate the truth of advertisements and usually is not legally required to do so.