The following resolutions can help consumers have a safe, scam-free 2014:
1. Get everything in writing. Get every verbal discussion in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstanding between you and the business. 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 submitting credit or debit card numbers.
3. Always check out a business with the BBB prior to making a purchase. Look for the BBB Seal of Accreditation. Accredited Businesses agree to maintain BBB standards of trust. Check out a business at bbb.org. Also, use our FREE “Request a Quote” service.
4. Beware of “job offers” to make easy money. Unemployment scams continuously target 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 bbb.org before you apply for any job.
5. Keep your computer safe. If you haven’t already, install anti-virus software on your computer and regularly check for software and operating system updates. 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 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 and personal data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Take advantage of the free paper shreding events that the BBB hosts.
8. Fight fake check fraud. Because of advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create phony checks that appear authentic. 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 although you never applied. Be aware; if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
9. Warn and empower others. If you’re unable to resolve a problem with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer, file a complaint. Your complaint will go on record and may help others when 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 cash-strapped, 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.