Roanoke, VA (January 3, 2014) – Lose weight. Improve your finances. Exercise. Get a new job. Sound familiar? These are the top 4 most common New Year’s resolutions for 2014 according to a recent Harris Poll. While BBB can’t get you on the treadmill, prescribe a new diet, or find you that perfect job, there are several BBB tips that can help you get your finances in better shape in the coming year.
“Each year we seem to stick to the common resolutions that affect our physical appearances and relationships with others, but fail to focus in on being a safer, wiser consumer,” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. “The new year is a great time to work out both your waistline and the bottom line. Learning how to be a smarter consumer and how to better protect your identity and finances can be just as important to your physical and mental well-being as losing a few pounds.”
There are multiple ways to approach being a safer consumer that mirror best practices for the most common New Year’s resolutions. Just like with losing weight, exercising, and finding that new job, there are fundamental steps that can help you meet your goals. Imagine if you approached these resolutions using common unsafe practices that consumers report to BBB each day:
1. Keep your computer safe. Just like you wouldn’t trust an infomercial claiming you’ll lose 40 lbs. in a week by drinking fruit punch, you can’t trust every e-mail and attachment you receive in your inbox. Install anti-virus software onto your computer and don’t forget to regularly check for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in e-mails unless you can confirm the e-mail came from someone you trust.
2. Do your research. Much like scanning the nutritional facts on the back of a food product, it’s important to do your research on companies as a consumer. 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. You can find BBB Business Reviews on over 4 million businesses nationwide on www.bbb.org.
3. Protect your identity. You wouldn’t put your social security and family photos on your resume, so why give it away to perfect strangers? Shred paper documents that contain sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Store all personal documents, such as your Social Security card, in a safe place. Look up your credit score at least once a year and check your credit and debit card statements frequently.
4. Get everything in writing. You wouldn’t accept a new job without getting the salary and benefits in writing, and the same applies for all business transactions. It’s important with any contract to read the fine print! When contracting with a business, put everything you agree to in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business actually delivers.
5. Limit what you share on social media. You’d never walk around in public wearing a t-shirt with your address on it, but people use social media in this manner every day! 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 on a social media site that you are going out of town or won’t be home for specific period of time.
6. Shop on trustworthy websites. Would you buy an extremely expensive piece of jewelry from a stranger on the street? Shopping online on unknown websites is no different. When shopping online, make sure you're using a trusted site before you provide any personal or banking information over the web. Look for the "s" in https:// in the URL for a secure site.
7. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. You wouldn’t give cash to a stranger at the mall and trust them to pay your utility bill, would you? Wiring money to strangers is no different. Many scams require that the victim wire money to the scammers. Tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling for victims is that it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.
8. Beware of “job” offers to make easy money. This tip fits right in with New Year’s job searchers. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience. Look up companies at www.bbb.org before you apply for any job.
9. Ask the BBB for help. Start with trust and check with your BBB first! Your BBB may be able to help resolve your situation and your experience may help others make a decision on working with that company. Use the BBB to educate and empower yourself to make informed decisions.
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution service, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.
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/BBBWesternVA and on Facebook at facebook.com/BBBWesternVA