As the new year begins, it is important that being consumer-savvy is one of your goals for the year. BBB serving Vancouver Island offers 10 New Year’s resolutions to help you avoid scams, prevent identity theft and save money in 2014.
"The new year is a great time to have goals to protect yourself," says Rosalind Scott, President & CEO of BBB serving Vancouver Island. "By making small changes in your life, you may protect yourself against big issues."
BBB recommends the following New Year’s resolutions to become a savvier consumer in 2014:
1. Get everything in writing. Get every verbal discussion in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business actually delivers. Always be sure to write down the name of the representative with whom you spoke.
2. Read the fine print—especially for “free” trial offers. “Free” trial offers often result in repeated charges to your credit or debit cards sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars every month. Read the terms and conditions of any “free” trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
3. Look for the BBB Seal of Accreditation and always check out a business with the BBB prior to making a purchase. You can locate trustworthy businesses by visiting www.bbb.org to view free BBB Business Reviews. You might also like to try our FREE Request a Quote service.
4. Beware of “job”offers to make easy money. Unemployment 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.
5. Keep your computer safe.If you haven’t 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 free shred events at www.bbb.org.
8. Fight fake check fraud. Because of advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create real-looking but 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 a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper when you never applied. Be aware if it sounds too good to be true.
9. Warn and empower others. Be sure to contact your BBB and file a complaint if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer. Your complaint will go on record and may help others in dealing with that company. Use the BBB to educate and empower yourself to make informed decisions.
10. Create a budget and stick to it. If you’re a cash-strapped consumer, setting a budget can help you stay afloat in 2014. The BBB has additional advice on how to create a budget to help you get out and stay out of debt at www.bbb.org