We are starting our BBBWare! series with the top 10 tips that should become second nature to everyone.
While it is almost impossible to predict the next scam, if you remember these 10 things, you can avoid most of them and help protect yourself, your family and your business.
They may seem simple and obvious, but many of us find ourselves doing one or more of these things on a regular basis and must change our behavior.
• Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. And definitely don’t do it if they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card or a gift card (those cannot be traced).
• Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer and steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it could be fake.
• Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean it is. Even Caller ID can be faked.
• Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shady. Check out the company first at BBB.org. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you are not buying cheap or counterfeit goods.
• Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, Craigslist, social media, email and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con to get you to trust them.
• Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media or even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate and Social Security numbers.
• Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
• Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes and debts. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card or other non-traditional payment methods. Say no to cash-only deals, high upfront payments, overpayments and handshake deals without a contract.
• Whenever possible, work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance, especially contractors who will be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Check them out at BBB.org to see what other consumers have experienced.
• Be cautious about what you share on social media and consider only connecting with people you already know. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.
BBB’s Scam Tracker provides information on scams and tips to protect yourself and your business online at BBB.org.
Marybeth Stevens has been the president of BBB Paso del Norte since December 2016. She is a graduate of Leadership Texas 2015.