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Every week, join Sydney Waters as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Resolutions for a Fraud-Free New Year

Businessman use magnifying glass with a checklist on clipboard paper. Successfully complete business assignments.
ipuwadol/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Businessman use magnifying glass with a checklist on clipboard paper. Successfully complete business assignments.

Your New Year’s resolutions might be financial, career or health goals, but let’s resolve to be scam-free this year, too. The best way to protect yourself all year long is to know the signs of scams and fraud.

Each year, BBB publishes its Scam Tracker Risk Report, an analysis of the riskiest scams reported to BBB in the prior year, dollar amounts lost and how the scams impacted consumers. Among the riskiest scams in 2022 were online purchase scams, employment scams and cryptocurrency scams.

BBB has compiled all the lessons learned from this year’s Scam Tracker Risk Report into a handy set of resolutions for staying fraud-free in 2024.

BBB’s resolutions for a fraud-free New Year:

●       I resolve to research before I buy online. Consumers report to BBB that online purchases are the most common way they lose money to scams. Always research online retailers. Consult BBB’s guide to online shopping, and ask yourself before you buy:

o    Is this a person or business I know and trust?
o    Do they have a working customer service number?
o    Where is the company physically located?
o    Is their website secure (https://)?
o    Have other shoppers complained about this company?

●       I resolve to job hunt safely. Reports to BBB about employment scams are up 250% over last year. These include fake listings designed to steal personal information, as well as fraudulent or illegal jobs. Research the company offering the job and call the company to make sure the listing is real. Never pay a stranger for a job and be cautious about giving out your personal information.

●       I resolve to bank smart online. The lack of regulation in online banking services and cryptocurrency means the potential for fraud is high. If you use online banking services, be protective of your account information and fund your account with a credit card so you have more recourse in the event of fraud. If you use cryptocurrency, be wary of sharing your wallet. Use caution with new or unfamiliar cryptocurrencies, especially if they claim to bring high returns.

●       I resolve to keep my computer safe. Taking the right precautions can protect your computer from viruses if you happen to be the victim of a phishing scam. Install antivirus software on your computer and check regularly for updates. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust.

●       I resolve to review a local business. You can play a critical part in making the marketplace better and safer for everyone by sharing information about your experiences, good or bad, with local businesses. If you’ve experienced a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

Sydney Waters is the new Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau and responsible for outreach efforts in Southern Illinois and Eastern and Southwest Missouri.