Better Business Bureau (BBB) has developed 10 ways that can help you fight scammers, prevent identity theft, and find trustworthy businesses and charities in the coming year.
“Consumers can protect themselves from fraud by knowing the red flags of common scams, researching businesses before they buy and getting every contract in writing,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “BBB Business Profiles and BBB Charity Reviews offer verified information that is available 24/7 on the BBB website. The website also has tips to help consumers with many common transactions.”
BBB Scam Tracker is a great resource for reporting scams or finding out whether that email, text or phone call you got claiming to be from the IRS or trying to collect a debt was legitimate or a scam. More than 175,000 scam reports have been filed nationwide since Scam Tracker came online in February 2015. BBB gives consumers the tools to track scams that are occurring in their regions.
The following resolutions can help consumers have a safe, fraud-free 2020:
1. Check a business out with BBB before you buy. More than 400,000 businesses meet BBB’s Standards for Trust and are qualified to use a BBB Accredited Business seal on their websites and at business locations. Visit bbb.org to find BBB Business Profiles for 5.3 million businesses across North America.
2. Be skeptical if you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS doesn’t call people or email them to inform them of taxes or penalties due nor does it threaten to arrest or sue taxpayers. Their initial contact always is by letter.
3. Always read the fine print — especially with “free” trial offers. Thousands of consumers have complained to BBB 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. BBB published an in-depth investigative study on these deceptive free trial offers in 2018.
4. Keep your computer safe. 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. BBB issued an in-depth investigative study on tech support scams in 2017.
5. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know tracking money sent via MoneyGram, Western Union or Green Dot MoneyPak is extremely difficult. Once you’ve wired money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. This is a common tactic in fake online pet sales; BBB published an in-depth investigative study on these puppy scams in 2017.
6. Fight identity theft. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely.
7. Ask BBB for help. File a complaint with BBB if you have a dispute with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer.
8. Don’t give to fraudulent charities. BBB advises consumers to research charities carefully before making a donation. Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do. Consumers can find reports on charities at bbb.org.
9. Fight fake check fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking phony checks. 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. These are almost always scams. BBB issued an in-depth investigative study on fake checks in 2018.
10. Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. Get verbal agreements in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers.