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As the new year begins, the Better Business Bureau offers ten resolutions to help you avoid becoming a victim of scams, prevent identity theft and save money in 2013.
“The new year is a great time to establish some new habits to better protect yourself against scams,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York. “Even small steps can make a big difference.”
The BBB notes the following New Year’s resolutions that can help you be more “consumer-savvy” in 2013:
1. Do your research. Whether it's a business you're looking to hire or a product you're looking to buy, take the time to do your research. You can find BBB Business Reviews, good and bad, on over 4 million businesses nationwide on www.bbb.org.
2. Keep your computer safe. If you haven’t done so already, install anti-virus software onto your computer and don’t forget to regularly check for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in e-mails unless you can confirm the e-mail came from someone you trust.
3. Protect your identity. Shred paper documents that contain sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Store all personal documents, such as your Social Security card, in a safe place. Look up your credit score at least once a year and check your credit and debit card statements frequently.
4. Get everything in writing. When contracting with a business, put everything you agree to in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business actually delivers.
5. Limit what you share on social media. Scammers use social media sites to gather information on potential victims. Avoid sharing too much personal information and check your privacy settings. Additionally, never announce on a social media site that you are going out of town or won’t be home for specific period of time.
6. Shop on trustworthy websites. When shopping online, make sure you're using a trusted site before you provide any personal or banking information over the web. Look for the "s" in https:// in the URL for a secure site.
7. Read the fine print—especially for “free” trial offers. After signing up for a “free” trial offer online, many consumers are frustrated by repeated charges to their credit or debit cards. Always read and understand the terms and conditions of any “free” trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
8. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money to the scammers. Tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling for victims is that it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.
9. Beware of “job” offers to make easy money. Unemployment in the nation remains 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. Look up companies at www.bbb.org before you apply for any job.
10. 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. Your BBB may be able to help resolve your complaint and the resolution and posting of it on the company’s BBB Business Review may help others thinking about dealing with that company. Use the BBB to educate and empower yourself to make informed decisions.
For more tips you can trust, visit www.newyork.bbb.org, and to sign up for our weekly scam alerts, visit https://cbbb.wufoo.com/forms/email-sign-up/.