How to be a Savvy Consumer


Luckily, you can protect yourself against unscrupulous scammers and fraudulent businesses with the following simple advice:You’ve heard the saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” In fact, money can bring out the worst in people. Sad but true, crooks seem to come out of the woodwork trying to pilfer your dough.

“In a tough economy, it’s more important than ever to protect the money you have from scammers and bad businesses,” explained Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Luckily, you can protect yourself against unscrupulous scammers and fraudulent businesses with the following simple advice:

Contracts

Document accompaniments like Customer Agreements define the terms of a business deal and are meant to protect companies. However, it is equally important, if not more so, for the consumers to read and understand that legalese. Ask questions, or take the document home for more careful evaluation, if necessary. It is very important for consumers to know their rights as part of whatever deal they are entering into. Furthermore, remember you can’t always just take sales representative’s word for it, and don’t forget your receipt (and save it).

“Get everything in writing and always read the fine print,” summarizes the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Identity Theft

Always shred sensitive documents that include personal information like account numbers and social security numbers, monitor your account statements and credit reports closely (even for small amounts you don’t remember paying) and report suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately, and beware of phishing e-mails and phone calls. Never give out personal information without confirming 100 percent the source is trustworthy.

Wiring Money

Never wire money to someone you don’t know. A lot of cons are reliant upon duping consumers into sending money for various reasons that seem to make sense at the time, but don’t take the bait. Unless it is to a friend or family member, try to forgo using wiring services altogether.

“Scammers know it’s extremely difficult to track money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union. More troubling for victims is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get your money back,” the BBB warns.

Complain

If you’ve been financially ripped off by a criminal, you can help yourself in the future and others from being assailed again. Here are just a few organizations and government agencies with whom you can file a grievance:

  • Better Business Bureau
  • The Direct Selling Association
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center
  • Your financial institution

Utilize Your Resources

The above organizations will usually have online resources where you can research any sketchy businesses. For example, nearly 400,000 businesses are accredited by the BBB and you can check out that information at www.bbb.org. This is also a good tool for finding reviews on goods and services on which you are deciding, yet another way to protect yourself as a consumer.

Consumer scams are serious problems, but they don’t have to be your serious problems. Take the above advice about being vigilant with your finances, and at least you will have the opportunity to find out if money really can buy happiness.

 

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