BBB ON HOMES New Year’s tips: Start 2019 off in safe, scam-free way

December 30, 2018

With the holidays coming to an end and a new year arriving in a few days, the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers New Year’s resolutions that can help you fight scammers, prevent identity theft, and find trustworthy businesses and charities in the upcoming year:

Always check out a business or charity. Research businesses by checking with the Better Business Bureau at BBBHouston.org, where you can read details about complaints and customer reviews to verify how the company responds to and resolves any potential issues. The BBB also reviews charities to check if they comply with our Standards for Charity Accountability, and these reports are also available on the BBB website.

Guard your personal information. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. Do not give your credit card number (or the expiration date), bank account number, Social Security number, or driver’s license number over the phone or the internet to anyone you do not know.

Read the fine print, especially with free trial offers. Thousands of consumers nationwide have complained to BBB after signing up for a free trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards, sometimes amounting to hundreds of dollars every month. Read the terms and conditions of any free trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.

Keep your computer safe. Install antivirus software on your computer and check regularly 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.

Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know tracking money sent via wire transfer is extremely difficult. Once you’ve wired money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

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

Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics. An offer that is good “today only” is a sign to be even more careful. By considering your needs and comparing products, prices, terms and guarantees, you can tell a true bargain from an offer that may be “too good to be true”.

Fight fake check fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking, phony checks. Be extremely wary of checks that come with claims that you’ve won a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.

Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers.

The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail lnapoliello@bbbhou.org. Include your mailing address and phone number.

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