Betty Lin-Fisher: Tips to keep you a healthy consumer this year

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal consumer columnist

Print
Reprint
Subscribe
Add This

It may be the end of January, but it’s still early enough in the year to jump-start or renew your resolve to be a better consumer.

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to keep you financially safe and scam-free for 2014:

1. Always check a business out with BBB before you buy. The BBB says nearly 400,000 businesses meet its standards and are qualified to use what is called their Accredited Business seal on their websites and at business locations. Go online to www.akron.­bbb.org to find BBB Business Reviews.

2. Be skeptical of “job offers” that promise easy money. Scammers target people desperate to find jobs. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home proposal or business opportunity that promises money for little work and no experience.

3. Always read the fine print — especially with “free” trial offers. Thousands of consumers complained to the BBB after signing up for a “free” trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards. The amounts can total hundreds of dollars per month.

4. Keep your computer safe. Install anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly for software and operating system updates. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the source is trustworthy.

5. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is difficult. Once you’ve wired money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

6. Fight identity theft. Shred paper documents that include financial data. Dispose of computers, cellphones and digital data safely. The BBB offers tips and checklists on what to shred. It also has programs called “Secure Your ID.”

7. Ask for help. File a complaint with the BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or believe you are a scam victim.

8. Create a budget and stick to it. The BBB has online advice on how to create a budget to help you get out of debt at www.bbb.org.

9. Fight fake check fraud. Printing technology has enabled scammers to create professional-looking phony checks. You can learn to look for check fraud. Be wary of checks saying you’ve won a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.

10. Get everything in writing. Get every oral agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings on expectations and what a business delivers.

For more information, call 330-253-4590.

Top 2013 scams

Here are the top 10 categories that consumers complained about in 2013 to the Ohio attorney general.

• Motor vehicles.

• Collections, credit reporting, or financial services.

• Problems with the Do Not Call list.

• Internet, phone, or TV services.

• Household goods or property improvement services.

• Professional services.

• Shopping, food, or beverage products.

• Health and beauty products.

• Sweepstakes or prizes.

• Mortgage situations.

Among motor vehicle complaints, consumers reported the most problems with used car sales and obtaining titles. Consumers are asked to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office if a car dealership fails to provide a title within 30 days of a sale.

Among nearly 26,500 total complaints filed in 2013 were 578 complaints involving identity theft. The state launched an Identity Theft Unit in September 2012. The unit helps identity theft victims in areas such as fraudulently opened accounts or purchases made on existing accounts.

Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly may call the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or go online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty


© 2014 The Akron Beacon Journal  ●  Ohio.com  ●  Enjoy  ● 44 E. Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio 44308