How to Guard Against Scammers While Getting Finances in Order

  
     
January 18, 2017

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to start working towards a new goal.  While many people’s resolutions focus on their physical health, your financial health is just as important.  Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Oklahoma advises consumers to pursue financial stability while being mindful of scams.    

BBB offers these five tips for safeguarding against identity theft and scams: 

1. Make a budget.
There are three categories in which to file your expenses:

  • essentials (house, food, transportation)
  • extras (entertainment and little extras)
  • savings

It's important to decide what percent of your income should go to each category and then to stick to that amount.  When making purchases, for example, a car, it will be easier to say no to the "huge" sale and stick to a budget-friendly option.  Remember always to shop smart and make sure you're getting the best deal.  If someone is pressuring you to buy quickly, it's probably best to walk away.

2. Select a bank wisely
Shopping smart includes being thoughtful about where you keep your money. Setting up an account with a bank or a credit union is simple and can be done online or in person at a branch. A few questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line are:

  • What are your fees?
  • What services do you offer? Think debit card, free ATM access, free paper checks, mobile deposit, a website to keep up with your account.
  • Do you require a minimum balance? 

If you choose an online-only bank or to apply online make sure you do your research and ensure the organization is safe.  Always check that the URL includes https:// before entering sensitive information.  The “s” signifies that the data sent or received is encrypted. 

3. Safeguard your identity.
One way to make sure your identity hasn’t been stolen is by going to AnnualCreditReport.com to check your credit report and credit score.  If you save bank statements and receipts throughout the year, keep them in a secure place.  Always shred any documents with sensitive information like your social security number, bank account numbers, employment and insurance documents.  (Check out this article for what other documents might contain confidential information.) Also, keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts and contest any fishy expenditures. If you think your identity has been stolen, report it at IdentityTheft.org.

4. Don’t throw away money.
Not wasting money could be as simple as contributing to your 401(k) account and having the amount matched by your employer.  Some credit card companies offer different kinds of rewards based on your spendings like cash back, airline miles or even gift cards.  If you are applying for a credit card, make sure it offers the rewards you want.  Before signing up for the card make sure you know how the benefits can be used. Always read the fine print to make sure there aren't strict limitations on how and when you can use your rewards.

5. Always do your research.
You work hard for your money, so you want to make sure you're spending on products or services that are worth it.  Always shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal particularly when making big purchases.  If an investment involves signing a contract, read it thoroughly.  Never take someone’s word for what it entails.  If you hire someone to help with your finances, review their BBB Business Profile by going to bbb.org which includes a rating, customer reviews, and complaint history.

If you're pursuing health-related goals this year, BBB has also discussed how to pick a gym and how to avoid weight loss scams.