Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia recommends the following New Year’s resolutions to be a savvy consumer in 2013:
1. Be your own best protector. Even with laws and consumer protection agencies, consumers should guard themselves by being cautious of high pressure sales or investment offers. Check out a business with BBB before signing anything or paying money up front. Also, make sure to read the fine print!
2. Beware of job offers to make easy money. Scammers target job hunters so beware of any job offer, work-at-home or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience. Use caution when you are dealing with a company that asks for advance fees or asks for personal or financial information before providing adequate information about the position.
3. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams involve a victim who is asked to wire money. The scam might claim you have won a lottery, landed a mystery shopper job, or that a loved one is in trouble in another country and needs money.
4. Be cautious about doing business with strangers who approach you at home. If considering doing business with a door-to-door salesperson, first check out the company with your BBB and appropriate licensing agencies.
5. Get everything in writing. Get agreements and quotes in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business will deliver. Make sure any verbal promises are documented in writing.
6. DO NOT give any personal or financial information over the phone to an unfamiliar individual or company. This includes credit card numbers, bank account numbers and Social Security numbers. Even if you are told it is only for “verification,” this information can be used for unauthorized credit card charges or bank account debits.
7. Protect yourself from identity theft. Shred documents that include sensitive financial information and properly dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Don’t share personal or financial information with unknown individuals.
8. Beware of fake check scams. Scammers have the ability to create very real-looking counterfeit checks. Be wary of claims, accompanied by a sizable check amount, which state you have won a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a mystery shopper.
9. Do not pay in advance for “guaranteed” loans, jobs, credit or debt repair. Advance fee schemers typically ask for hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront in order to allegedly deliver what they have promised. This is often done without a written contract. Many consumers will later discover what the company actually provides, if anything, typically falls far short of what was promised.
10. Contact BBB for assistance. If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA.
–submitted by Faye Sensabaugh BBB of SWVA