BBB’s top 10 New Year’s resolutions for a consumer-savvy 2020
As the new year begins, it’s an important time to think about simple changes we can make to ensure that this new year is better than the last. The Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin offers 10 New Year’s resolutions to help you avoid scams, prevent identity theft and be a smarter consumer in 2020.
“Being a savvy consumer is ultimately about staying one step ahead of scammers,” says Jim Temmer, president/ CEO of BBB Serving Wisconsin. “The way to do that is to take your time and do your research before making a decision. The scammers are counting on you to be too busy to take these simple steps to protect yourself. But, by taking a few minutes to implement these tips, you can outsmart scammers, identity thieves and others who are trying to separate you from your hardearned cash.”
In 2020, consumers should resolve to: 1. Implement a credit freeze. A credit freeze is the best way to protect yourself from financial identity theft because it restricts access to your credit file, making it impossible for identity thieves to apply for a new line of credit in your name. Best of all, it’s free to freeze and thaw your credit.
2. Use technology to block robocalls and other telemarketing calls. Nomorobo, a call blocking feature, can disconnect known telemarketers or scammers from your VoIP landline after one ring. It’s free for landlines; a nominal fee for cell phones. Go to www.nomorobo. com to begin. Make sure you’ve registered your phones with www.donotcall.gov, too.
3. Review your permissions and privacy settings on social media. If you’ve signed into an app or website using your social media credentials or taken a fun quiz on social media, you may have unwittingly given permission to third-party apps to access your personal information and contacts. On Facebook, go to “settings” and “apps and websites” to review.
4. Warn others and stop fraudsters by reporting scams to BBB’s Scamtracker. Scamtracker is a crowdsourced website where you can report if you’ve been contacted by a scammer. Since reports are plotted on a map, you can also use Scamtracker to find out what’s happening in your area. Go to bbb.org/scamtracker for more information. Scamtracker reports also help BBB educate the public with more in-depth reports via our scam studies.
5. Check out businesses and charities first. A little research before you buy or donate to make sure you’re working with a reputable company or charity can save you a lot of time, money and heartache later. Check out companies and charities at bbb.org.
6. Use secure payment methods. A scammer’s favorite way to steal your money is by asking you to pay with either a gift card or a money wire transfer, such as Money Gram or Western Union. Why? Because these payment methods are irreversible. Credit card payments are more secure because, if fraud is suspected, the charge can be disputed. If you receive a request from someone claiming to be from the IRS, a debt collector or anyone else and they ask you to pay with a gift card or a money wire transfer, it’s almost always a scam.
7. Use a unique and complex password for every online account. Consider a passphrase, which is simply a long password made up of from a collection of multiple words, making them both easier to type and remember. Poor, easy-to-guess passwords are one of the most common ways cyber attackers can hack into your online accounts. If it’s too difficult to remember multiple passwords, consider a password manager. Then, you’ll only have to remember one unique and complex password instead of many.
8. Enable multi-factor authentication whenever it is available. Multi-factor authentication is when you are granted access to an online account only after you have successfully provided two or more pieces of evidence, such as your password AND a unique code generated by your smartphone, emailed or texted to you. With multi-factor authentication, if hackers steal your username and password, they still can’t access your account.
9. Monitor your existing financial accounts. Gone are the days when you waited for your credit card statement to come in the mail for you to review. Sign up for online access so you can review your financial accounts daily. Better yet, take advantage of free text message alerts to notify you of activity, remind you when payments are due, etc.
10. File your taxes early. One common fraud during tax season involves identity theft. Scammers try to submit a return in your name and have your refund come to them. You can avoid this by beating them to it, and submitting your tax return early.