Have you resolved to exercise more or eat healthier? Each year, we seem to make the same resolutions when it comes to our appearance or health, which is admirable, but we fail to focus in on being a safer, wiser consumer. 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 or eating more vegetables.
Here are nine ways Oklahomans can practice being safer consumers in 2015:
- Keep your computer safe. You can’t trust every email 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 emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust.
- Do your research. 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. Use BBB to educate and empower yourself to make informed decisions.
- Protect your identity. 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.
- Get everything in writing. 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.
- Limit what you share on social media. 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 a specific period of time.
- Shop on trustworthy websites. 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.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know. 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.
- 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 before you apply for any job.
- Report scams to BBB. Help keep other Oklahomans informed when you suspect an individual or business might be taking advantage of you or if you have been the victim of a scam. Call (405) 239-6081 to file a complaint with BBB. Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma will work with the individual or business to come to a satisfactory resolution for both parties.
For more tips and advice for a scam-free 2015, visit Stopthinkconnect.org, a website created by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Anti-Phishing Working Group. Check out their tips for remaining scam free and protecting your mobile device.