HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The New Year is fast approaching, and so it is more important than ever to resolve to be a savvy consumer.
With the help of Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau, here is a list of ten New Year's Resolutions to help you avoid becoming a victim of scams, prevent identity theft, and help save money in 2014.
1. Always check out a business with the BBB prior to making a purchase. "We want you to know whether or not there have been complaints and if the company has been responsible in addressing those or if they are ignoring them, because that is going to give you an indication of what kind of relationship you can expect with the business," Mason said.
2. Get everything in writing. Whether it be a contractor or a fitness center; anything where you have a long-term agreement, "get it in writing, read that, and make sure you understand it before you sign it."
3. The devil is in the details: Read the fine print. "So many times, people come to us with a complaint about an agreement and unfortunately, they have obligated themselves to a long-term agreement. Had they read the contract, even if it's a long one, they would have realized there were some things in there they should not have agreed to," Michele said.
4. Beware of job offers to make easy money. It's unfortunate that the very people who need a job are often the target of scams. "Just a matter of posting your resume on well-known sites can cause people to troll and offer you bogus jobs."
5. Keep your computer safe. If you haven't already, install anti-virus software on your computer. Do not open attachments or click on links unless you can confirm the email came from a trusted source.
6. Never wire money to someone you don't know. "There is no reason to wire money to anyone unless it is a family member and there is a well-known reason. But someone you don't know asking you to do this means they are about to scam you."
7. Fight identity theft. Among Mason's suggestions: Make sure you don't carry your Social Security number on you. Don't leave the red flag up on your mailbox with outgoing mail with private information. Shred documents you no longer need to prevent sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.
8. Avoid fake check fraud. Because of the advances in technology, scammers have the ability to create very real looking but phony checks. Be wary of checks that come with claims that you've won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant, or landed a job as a secret shopper that you never applied for.
9. Create a budget and stick with it. Along with going on a diet or cutting down on smoking, creating a budget and living within that budget is simply a matter of self-control.
10. Ask the BBB for help. Use the Bureau to educate and empower yourself to make informed decisions.