Tips for Consumers: New Year's Resolutions for Consumers

Tips for Consumers
New Year's Resolutions for Consumers

Each January I write a column suggesting some "New Year's resolutions" to give folks in the Hagerstown area a happier 2007. Here are some tips:
#1: You haven't won anything! Sweepstakes and lottery scams abound. Resolve to never, never, never send money to collect prizes - legitimate sweepstakes and lotteries do not require winners to pay any money in advance to claim awards. If you receive a check or travelers checks and are told to deposit the "winnings" or "commissions," then withdraw them from the bank and forward the money to another country, don't do it! The checks will bounce and you will be responsible to pay back your bank.
#2: Be alert to scam artists. They run advertisements for bogus loans, work-at-home promotions, 'miracle' weight loss schemes, false lottery notices and other tempting offers.
#3: Never succumb to the hard sell, "one day only" offer. Resolve to avoid sales or investment pitches demanding you "act now" or lose the opportunity forever - think things through, talk to family and friends, and check with the BBB.
#4: Get everything in writing. Always insist the statements in contract provisions match what the salesperson or advertisement said. Resolve to read and thoroughly understand every provision in a contract, before you sign. Remember that most contracts do NOT have three-day cancellation provisions. It is usually not the law.
#5: Resolve to resist work-at-home promotions from unknown overseas companies promising commissions for a few hours of part-time work. This is also true of ads from lenders "guaranteeing" a loan regardless of your income, credit history or financial situation.
#6: Resolve to safeguard your personal information. Don't give out your credit card, bank account, driver's license or Social Security numbers to telemarketers claiming to be from your bank or phone company. Ditto for e-mails claiming to be from your credit card company or bank. These are scams! Finally,
#7: Resolve to always deal with reliable merchants. Ensure they have a permanent address and phone number.

To file a complaint visit: www.baltimore.bbb.org or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.