While making your New Year’s resolutions list, did you include goals on budgeting and spending wisely? The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to take charge of their finances, shop and buy wisely, and stay away from marketplace scams. Among the tips to consider in 2014:
· Do not believe it just because you saw it on the Internet. Claims of fast money and “guaranteed” returns on your computer screen are no more reliable than classic chain letters and other “get rich quick schemes.”
· Guard your personal information. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. Do not give your credit card number (or the expiration date), bank account number, social security number, or driver’s license number over the phone or the Internet to anyone you do not know. Even if the caller promises a prize, an award, a “guaranteed” credit card, or a loan, do not give such personal financial information until you see written information about the offer, know that you want it, and have checked the offer out.
· Speaking of prizes, it is not a prize if you have to pay to get it. With the exception of games of skill where you pay to enter, a prize is something you win by chance, no strings attached. If you must pay for something or buy anything, then it’s a purchase, not a prize. Don’t fall for the fake checks that they are willing to send to “help out”, it will end up being counterfeit. And never wire-transfer money to anyone that you do not know personally.
· If someone offers to “fix” or “clean-up” your credit history, don’t believe it. Accurate information on your credit report cannot be removed and anyone who claims that it can is misleading you. By challenging the information in your report, they may be able to have it removed briefly but as soon as it is clarified it will be added back to your report. Normally by this time you have already paid more than $500.
· Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics. An offer that is good “today only” is a sign to be even more careful. By considering your needs and comparing products, prices, terms and guarantees, you can tell a true bargain from a “too good to be true” scam.
By making resolutions to protect yourself, you can become a more informed consumer thus saving time, money and embarrassment by not falling for some of these common scams. The most important advice that I can give to consumers is “Ask questions and then check it out.” The Better Business Bureau stands ready to answer questions and offer advice when it comes to protecting yourself from becoming a victim. For more information on avoiding scams, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com