How to be a smarter consumer in 2012 - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

How to be a smarter consumer in 2012

The following is a press release from the Better Business Bureau (BBB):

   BBB offers 10 Tips for being a Smarter Consumer in 2012

The start of a new year is a great time to resolve to be a smarter, safer consumer. Carmen Million, BBB President, states that it is the consumer's right and responsibility to take a stand to protect themselves against scammers.

The Better Business Bureau offers 10 resolutions for 2012 that can help you fight scammers, prevent identity theft and save money:

1. Always check out a business with BBB.  Over 650 local businesses meet BBB standards and are qualified to use the BBB Accredited Business seal. Check with your BBB to find Business Reviews for thousands of local businesses.

2. Get everything in writing. Don't just take a company's word for it. Get all verbal promises in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings later.

3. Always read the fine print. The details are always in the fine print. Take time to read through all contracts, paperwork and documents in their entirety before signing anything. This will ensure that you know what is expected and fully agree to what you're signing. Keep a copy for your records.

4. Be skeptical of "job offers" that promise easy money. With a high national unemployment rate, scammers are targeting people desperate to find a job. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience.

5. Keep your computer safe. If you have not already done so, install anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly for software and operating system updates. Never open attachments or click on links coming from unknown senders.

6. Never wire money to someone you do not know. Tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult, and once the money has been wired, it is nearly impossible to get it back.

7. Fight identity theft. Never give personal financial information or your social security number to any unknown caller. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. BBB offers tips and checklists on what to shred, and hosts an annual Shred Day event to help you stay safe.

8. Ask your BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or feel you have been victimized by a scammer.

9. Give wisely.  Philanthropists donate to charities all year long. Whether donating your time, treasure or talent, ask questions and do your research to ensure your money is going where you think it is going.

10. Fight fake check fraud.  Thanks to technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking phony checks. Educate yourself on the common types of check fraud and be extremely wary of checks that come with claims that you've won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit www.bbb.org or call the BBB at 337-478-6253.

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