Better Business Bureau (BBB) is challenging consumers to be smarter and safer in 2013. By following these ten simple New Year's resolutions, consumers will be prepared to combat scammers and protect themselves against fraud.
1. Do your research. Whether it's a business you're looking to hire or a product you're looking to buy, take the time to do your research. Check out a business at bbb.org to see its BBB Business Review. For product information, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
2. Keep your computer safe. 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 emails unless the email has been scanned for viruses or is from someone you know or trust.
3. Get it in writing. Don't just take a business's word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings.
4. Never wire money to someone you don't know. Many scams require money to be wired back to the scammer. Tracking money sent via a money wiring service is almost impossible.
5. Protect your identity. Always shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Safely store all personal documents, such as your Social Security card, and look up your credit score at least once a year. Check your credit and debit card statements frequently.
6. Shop on trustworthy websites. Online shopping has increasingly become more popular, so before you provide any personal or banking information over the web, make sure you're using a trusted site. Look for the "s" in https:// in the URL for a secure site.
7. Give wisely. Most philanthropists give year-round. To ensure your time, treasure and talent are going to the cause you're looking to support, research all charities at give.org to check their legitimacy and to see how their monetary donations are distributed.
8. Don't be pressured. If a company, organization or salesperson uses overly aggressive sales tactics to pressure you into making a purchase or on-the-spot decision, that's a red flag.
9. Limit the amount of information shared. Scammers use social media sites to gather information on potential victims. Avoid sharing too much personal information and check your privacy settings. Additionally, never announce through a social media site that you are going out of town, or won't be home for a specific amount of time.
10. Let your BBB help. BBB is here to promote marketplace trust. If you have an issue with a business or feel you have been scammed, file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org or call toll-free at 800-649-6814.