Friday, January 24, 2014

Top Ten List: How To Avoid Getting Scammed

Many Maritimers are astute shoppers when it comes to tracking down something to buy on the Internet. However, if you're afraid of being duped into buying something you don't want or getting hooked into an ongoing scam, the Maritime Better Business Bureau wants to help you avoid problems. The consumer group is out with its annual top ten list of ways to fight scammers. Included on the list, Jill Atkinson of the BBB says you should beware of job offers to make quick, easy money. Have anti-virus software on your computer and never wire or transfer money to someone you don't know. Then, there's reading the fine print on everything.

Atkinson also says you can fight identity theft by shredding sensitive documents. She also suggests creating a shopping budget and sticking to it, getting everything in writing, watching for checks in your name claiming you've won a bundle of money in a lottery and checking your local Better Business Bureau office for advice.

Here is the BBB's complete Top Ten List:

1.         Beware of “job” offers to make easy money. Unemployment is high and scammers are targeting the large pool of job hunters. Beware of any job offer, especially unsolicited mystery shopping offers, work-at-home schemes or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience.

2.         Always check a business out with BBB before you buy.  Nearly 400,000 businesses across North America bear the BBB seal of accreditation and meet our standards; you can find the seal on Web sites and at business locations.  But BBB doesn’t just report on accredited businesses. You can locate trustworthy businesses by visiting

3.         Always read the fine print—especially for “free” trial offers. Each year, thousands of consumers signup for a “free” trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards sometimes amounting to as much as hundreds of dollars every month. Read the terms and conditions of any “free” trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers. 

4.         Keep your computer safe. If you haven’t already, 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. 

5.         Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know that tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling for victims is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. 

6.         Fight identity theft.  Always shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely.

7.         Ask BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer.

8.         Create a budget and stick to it.  If you’re a cash-strapped consumer, setting a budget can help you stay afloat in 2014.  

9.         Fight fake check fraud.  Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create very real-looking phony checks. 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. 

10.       Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a business’ word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business delivers.