Grand Rapids, MI – December 31, 2013 – As the New Year arrives it is more important than ever to resolve to be a savvy consumer. The Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan (BBB) offers ten New Year’s resolutions to help you avoid becoming a victim of scams, prevent identity theft and save money in 2014.
The BBB recommends the following New Year’s resolutions to become a savvier consumer in 2014:
1. Look for the BBB Seal of Accreditation and always check out a business with the BBB prior to making a purchase. You can find the Seal on websites and at business locations. The BBB doesn’t just report on Accredited Businesses, you can locate trustworthy businesses by visiting www.bbb.org to view free BBB Business Reviews on accredited and non-accredited businesses.
2. Read the fine print—especially for “free” trial offers. Many consumers complained to the BBB in 2013 after signing up for a “free” trial offer online. These 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” trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
3. Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a business’ word for it. Get every verbal discussion in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business actually delivers.
4. 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.
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 very 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 the 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. 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 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 2013. 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
For more consumer tips you can trust from your BBB, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.