Heard a scam on the news, but didn’t get enough information on how to protect yourself from it happening again? Searching the web can be an instant way to gain information and seek out options. However, with opposing information on multiple websites, it is nearly impossible to determine what is most accurate. BBB has partnered with the FTC to celebrate National Consumer Protection Week and inform consumers on how to protect themselves and make better investing decisions.

National Consumer Protection Week (March 5th – 11th, 2017) is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money, what businesses to work with and avoid scams. It is designed to help people understand what rights they have as a consumer, how to make well-informed decisions about their personal security, what steps they can take if they come across a scam and how best to recover from identity theft.

Avoid Scams

  • Always check out a business with BBB first. If you come across a business that you are considering working with, search for the company’s Business Profile within the BBB website. A BBB Business Profile provides legitimate complaints and reviews that will help consumers gain the correct insight on a business.
  • Make sure that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software before you check any suspicious emails or download any unknown attachments.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Scammers often ask for their victims to wire money because it is harder to track and nearly impossible to get back. They commonly use such outlets as MoneyGram or Western Union.
  • Report and research common scams at BBB’s ScamTracker – at bbb.org/scamtracker/akron.
  • Always shred your personal documents that may include personal financial information – including bank, credit card and Social Security numbers. You can download a records retention schedule here.
  • If it is too good to be true – it most likely is.

Protecting Your Personal Security – Technology

Your Social Media Status. Technology is in the forefront regarding our daily activities. You probably spend most of your time connecting with people online, downloading apps and sharing photos to build up your online reputation. It is important to remember that your online actions could have actual consequences and you may have a bigger audience than you know. Once you post something online, you can’t take it back.

Protect your online footprint. Think about how many accounts that you have opened online. Now think about how many of those accounts may have personal information, such as routing numbers and credit card information. All of these accounts need to be protected for you and your wallet. The FTC provides the following steps to protect your account information:

  • Use privacy settings
  • Think about when it makes sense to turn off your location. Often a newly acquired app will ask permission for your location. As easy as it is to click allow to proceed, think about what that app is using that location for.
  • Don’t reply to messages that ask for your personal information – like passwords.
  • Don’t stay permanently signed into accounts.
  • Research the apps before downloading.

Connect to Wi-Fi with caution.

Imagine you are out and you need to connect to Wi-Fi to check your email. Your screen may alert you with options, to which you choose the top to connect instantly. Many of these local hotspot are not secure and can gain access to your information.

  • Turn off the Wi-Fi auto connect feature so that your phone doesn’t automatically connect to these local hotspots.
  • If you are not asked for a password to join a Wi-Fi network, the connection is not protected.
  • Check the address bar in your web browser for a secure site. Look for a padlock symbol and check to see that ‘https’ is before the URL.

Recovering from Identity Theft

Identity theft comes in many different forms. Essentially, if someone has used your personal information to make a purchase, commit fraud or gain benefits – that is identity theft. To recover from identity theft is not an easy task. Besides working with the account company where you experienced the fraud and reporting the fraud, you still must protect your identity to keep from the rest of it being stolen. This includes: closing new accounts opened in your name, stopping debt collectors and replacing your government-issued IDs. You can report an identity theft at identitytheft.gov and find a list of steps after your identity has been stolen here.

FTC provides further tips and means of protection at FTC.gov. BBB | Akron also provides consumer protection information any time of the year. If you have any concerns regarding a business, consult BBB | Akron.  For news on common scams and businesses to trust, follow your local BBB on Facebook at BBBAkron. Follow BBB|Akron on Facebook for more tips during Consumer Protection Week.

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