There are over 30 million businesses in the U.S. and Canada. Lots of chances to find bargains–or get ripped off. Each year, Better Business Bureau offers thousands of tips to help consumers to find businesses they can trust and avoid getting scammed.
Now that the New Year is under way, resolve to use BBB to help find trustworthy businesses. Here are 10 tips that can help you fight scammers, prevent identity theft and save money in 2014:
- Always check a business out with BBB before you buy. Nearly 400,000 businesses meet BBB standards and are qualified to use an Accredited Business seal on their websites and at business locations. Use checkbbb.org to find a list of Accredited Businesses under several category lists. For any business, visit www.bbb.org to find BBB Business Reviews for nearly 4 million businesses across North America to see complaint details, ownership information and advertising-related issues.
- Be skeptical of “job offers” that promise easy money. With high unemployment and long job searches common, scammers are targeting people desperate to find jobs. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience. Be especially careful when seeking employment through online classified sites.
- Always read the fine print—especially with “free” trial offers. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB this year after signing up for a “free” trial offer online that 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.
- Keep your computer safe. If you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust. Always log out of internet sites you are not using.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know that tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Once you’ve wired the money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
- Fight identity theft. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. BBB offers tips and checklists on what to shred, and hosts annual Shred Day events nationwide to help you stay safe.
- Ask BBB for help. File a complaint with BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Setting a budget can help you stay afloat in 2014. The BBB has advice on how to create a budget to help you get out of debt and stay out of debt at www.bbb.org.
- Fight fake check fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking 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. These are almost always scams.
- Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers