The New Year is a chance to make a fresh start, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a smart alternative to diets or other popular resolutions. Why not resolve to be a smarter consumer? It isn’t hard to do, and it could help you avoid some common scams.
Here are our 10 resolutions to be a savvy consumer in the coming year:
- Be skeptical of “job offers” that promise easy money. Unemployment in the nation is high, and scammers are targeting the large pool of job hunters. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience.
- Always check a business out with the BBB before you buy. Nearly 400,000 businesses meet BBB standards and are qualified to use an Accredited Business seal on their websites and at business locations. Visit www.bbb.org to find BBB Business Reviews for nearly 4 million businesses across North America.
- Always read the fine print—especially with “free” trial offers. Thousands of consumers complained to the BBB this year after signing up for a “free” trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards, sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars every month. Read the terms and conditions of any “free” offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
- Keep your computer safe. If you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in e-mails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scammers send fake checks to victims, then require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know that it’s extremely difficult to track money sent via MoneyGram, Western Union or Green Dot Moneypak. Once you’ve wired the money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
- Fight identity theft. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. The BBB offers tips and checklists on what to shred and hosts annual Secure Your ID events nationwide to help you stay safe.
- Ask the BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Setting a budget can help you stay afloat in 2012. The BBB has advice on how to create a budget to help you get out of debt and stay out of debt at www.bbb.org.
- Fight fake check fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking phony checks. Educate yourself on the common types of check fraud and be extremely wary of checks that come with claims that you’ve won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.
- Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. By getting any verbal agreement in writing, you can limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect from a business and what the business delivers.