Being a good consumer begins with you. Here are some tips to help celebrate national consumer protection week:
WHAT TO DO
Know whom youre dealing with. Try to find a sellers physical address (not a P.O. box) and phone number. With Internet phone services and other web-based technologies, its tough to tell where someone is calling from. Do an online search for the company name and website, and look for reviews. If people report negative experiences, youll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk.
Read your monthly statements. Scammers steal account information and run up charges or commit crimes. Dishonest merchants bill for monthly membership fees and other goods or services without authorization. If there are unapproved charges, contact your bank, card issuer, or creditor immediately.
Give only to established charities. In the aftermath of a disaster, give to an established charity rather than one that has sprung up overnight.
Talk to your doctor. Ask about research that supports a products claims, risks or side effects of prescription drugs. Only buy from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Fake, expired, or mislabeled products could be dangerous to your health.
Remember, theres no sure investment. If someone contacts you with low-risk, high-return investment opportunities, stay away. When you hear pitches that insist you act now, that guarantee big profits, that promise little or no financial risk, or that demand that you send cash immediately, report them.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Dont send money to someone you dont know. Dont send money to an online seller, a classified advertising box, or an online love interest. Its best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy online, consider a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card. Dont wire money to sellers that insist on wire transfers for payment, or to an alleged relative or friend in an emergency, or anyone who wants to keep it secret.
Dont agree to deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. Youre responsible for deposits: If a check is a fake, youre responsible to the bank. No matter how convincing, someone who overpays by check is almost certainly a scammer.
Dont reply to messages asking for personal or financial information. It doesnt matter whether its an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into revealing information.
Dont play a foreign lottery. Its illegal. And yet, messages that tout your chances of winning a foreign lottery, or messages that claim youve already won, can be tempting. Inevitably, you have to pay taxes, fees, or customs duties to collect your prize. If you must send money to collect, you havent won anything. And if you send any money, you will lose it. You wont get any money back, either, regardless of promises or guarantees.
Robb Hicken: 947-2115