On the heels of National Consumer Protection Week (last week), it’s timely to talk about the basics of scam prevention; the 101 of how not to be a target for con artists. We talk about these tips a lot, but if you keep them handy, we can promise you will save yourself a lot of money and heartache. And the good guys will come out with a big W over the scammers, at least when it comes to you, savvy consumer.
In an era when scams evolve quickly, and the internet is a powerful tool for ripping off unsuspecting victims, every week should be consumer protection week.
So, let’s dive right in.
Here are your top tips to avoid being scammed
• Do not ever send money to someone you have not met face-to-face. Especially don’t do this if they ask you to wire transfer money, use a prepaid debit card or a gift card. They are untraceable.
• Never click on attachments or links in unsolicited emails or texts. They can contain malware for your computer and steal your identity.
• Don’t believe it’s real just because it looks real. Logos, fonts and all appearance details can be copied onto emails and documents that look official. Same goes for websites. Caller ID can also be faked.
• Only make online purchases when you know the source is legitimate. Website addresses should have the “s” in “https.” There should be a small lock icon on the address bar. Read reviews of the merchandise. Look up the company at bbb.org.
• Be cautious of anyone you meet online, such as dating sites, Craigslist and social media.
• Don’t share personal identification information with anyone who has contacted you out of the blue. This goes for email, phone calls, texts, social media and your front door. Guard your banking, Social Security and insurance numbers.
• Reject pressure to “act immediately.” Scammers want you to act before you’ve thought it through.
• Only make payment for purchases through secure, traceable means. No wire transfers, prepaid money cards or gift cards when pressured to do so. Reject high upfront payments, high pressure sales tactics and simple handshake deals. Get a contract and read it all (yes, that means the fine print, too).
• Watch out when sharing on social media. Imposters may read up on you and sound as if they know you. Never post your travel plans.
In addition to the above tips for online activity, there are a few things to remember regarding other ways scammers victimize consumers:
• Shred all paper such as junk mail and financial documents, old bills and medical paperwork.
• Monitor your financial accounts and check out any unknown transaction, no matter how small.
• Keep all software and virus protection programs updated.
Remember, it’s important to report scams, even if you didn’t lose any money. Share your experience with a scammer at bbb.org/scamtracker. You’ll be a real hero when you prevent someone else from getting scammed, just because you reported it.
Hannah Stiff is the Montana Marketplace Manager for BBB Northwest + Pacific. She can be reached at Hannah.email@example.com.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Northwest & Pacific, which serves more than 15 million consumers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Hawaii and Western Wyoming.