Avoid getting scammed! Consumer protection and fraud prevention
With more and more business being conducted online, fraud is on the rise. We're vulnerable to theft in a multitude of ways via the electronic trail we leave behind and the threat of online scams.
Let's take a look at four ways to avoid getting scammed and how you can make sure you haven't already fallen victim.
1. Only do business with reputable vendors
Conducting business with reputable vendors is easier said than done, especially with the number of small businesses and individuals selling products and services online. Check user-generated reviews, consumer ratings, and consumer review sites (for larger businesses) before buying.
Google the name of the person or business and the item they're selling in order to verify that others haven't been taken advantage of. If the business is unfamiliar to you, ask friends on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites to share any personal experience they may have with the business. Collect as much consumer information as possible from the business or person you're considering buying from.
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2. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is
Does that deal sound a bit too good to be true? Trust your intuition, it's right more often than you probably realize. Sadly, it's often only in retrospect that we recognize the string of warning signs we somehow missed.
Try and approach each financial transaction - especially those online - with a healthy dose of skepticism. If the deal sounds too good to be true, or something seems "off" about the website, double-check the website address. Some scammers have created websites with a slightly altered IP address to look nearly identical to more reputable websites.
If the wording in the marketing description seems odd, or you have a strange feeling about the website or purchase, walk away from the transaction and get more information.
3. Be suspicious of phone calls or emails from your bank or credit card provider asking for account information
One classic scam involves a phone call or email from your bank or credit card provider informing you that there has been a problem with your account. The caller will ask you to provide your account number or account details in order to confirm they've contacted the correct card or account holder.
A bank or financial institution already has your account information and has alternative methods for identifying you as the account holder. If you receive a phone call or email of this nature, do not provide any information and contact your bank or credit card provider on your own to see if there is an actual problem.
4. Regularly check your bank account activity and credit report
While banks and credit cards can refund cash or credit for a fraudulent transaction, the sooner a consumer is able to report fraud, the better.
Regularly checking your online statements can help you keep on top of your financial situation and alert you to any irregularities. Being acquainted with your credit score is also an important defense against fraud. Unfortunately, it's often only after a person becomes aware of their low credit score do they learn they've become a victim of fraud.
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