Enriched by patriotism


Some sell T-shirts and sweatshirts ablaze with the American flag and patriotic messages. Others peddle $9.95 POW bracelets, GI dog tags, $225 Let Freedom Ring rings, or $4.50 packets of Desert Storm stationery. There arey claim that portions of their proceeds go to help troops or their families. But lurking in this surge of patriotism are hucksters. Some of their scams range from the unbelievable to incredible -- such as cemeteries in New York and Ohio that urged people to buy plots before they fill with war dead.

Consumer protection experts warn: Don't let support for troops make you a sap for possible scams.

"Give, but give wisely," said Jim Appleby, executive director of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont Inc., in Charlotte, N.C. "Ask questions. Ask for financial statements. If the firm isn't willing to provide all that information, it is not worth giving to."

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