Better Business Bureau is challenging consumers to be smarter, safer consumers in 2013. By following these 10 simple New Year's resolutions, consumers will be prepared to combat scammers and protect themselves from 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 came from someone you know and 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 scammers. 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, pull your credit report at least once a year and check your credit and debit card statements frequently.
6. Shop on trustworthy website. Online shopping is 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:// as opposed to http://in the address box.
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 www.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. Walk away.
9. Limit the amount of information shared on social media pages. 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 specified 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.