RALEIGH – The loss of money, personal information, and perseverance of scammers continue with online purchase scams as the riskiest of scams. Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) recommends adding a few precautionary steps to the New Year’s resolution list, along with the weight loss and financial goals, to help make the upcoming days and months fraud-free.
- Be cautious with email. Be wary of unsolicited emails from a person or a company. Remember, scammers can make emails look like they are from a legitimate business, government agency, or reputable organization (even BBB!). Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
- Never send money to strangers. If you haven’t met a person face-to-face, don’t send them money. This is especially true if the person asks you to transfer funds using a pre-paid debit card or CashApp. Money sent to strangers in this way is untraceable and once it is sent, there’s no getting it back. Scammers will try to trick you into panicking – so before making a move, think the situation through. Don’t fall for it!
- Do research before making online payments and purchases. When shopping online, or if asked to make a payment online, research the retailer before entering payment information. Ask: Is this a person or business I know and trust? Do they have a working customer service number? Where is the company physically located? Would I be making payments through a secure server (https://….com)? Have I checked to see if others have complained?
- Use my best judgment when sharing my personal information. Sharing sensitive personal information with scammers opens the door to identity theft. Never share financial information, birthdate, address, Social Security/Social Insurance number or Medicare number with an unsolicited caller.
- Be social media smart. Make use of privacy settings on social media and only connect with people you actually know. Be careful about including personal information in your profile and never reveal your address and other sensitive information – even in a “fun” quiz. Scammers may use this information to make themselves pass as a friend or a relative and earn your trust. Also, be careful when buying products you saw on social media. BBB Scam Tracker has received thousands of complaints about misleading Facebook and Instagram ads.
When thinking about current finances and sticking to a New Year’s Resolution, consider these tips from BBB:
- Inventory your credit cards. Credit cards are known to have high-interest rates, and this can waste a lot of money over time. Reach out to the credit card company to see if a balance transfer offer can be used to switch to a card with a lower rate or ask if the interest rate can be lowered. Research the financial institution where the credit card is held on BBB.org first. Read the terms and contract very carefully – there may be big penalties if a payment is missed. If you have multiple cards, decide which debt-paying strategy is best for you. Some experts recommend paying off cards with the highest interest rates first. Others recommend paying off cards with the smallest balances first. Additionally, try sending in payments throughout the month. Put the $5 that would have been spent on a morning coffee towards debt instead.
- Avoid wasting money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, check with BBB. Making careful decisions now can save time, money, and headaches later. Research all companies at BBB.org, and check BBB Scam Tracker regularly to see what scams are happening in your area.
- Take advantage of free tools. There are many online tools that can help manage and reduce debt.
- Start budgeting. Creating a written budget and tracking spending is one of the best ways to save money and stop spending more than what is earned. First, figure out how much debt you have; you need an accurate picture before you can figure out your budget. Note the difference between fixed expenses, needs, and wants. If you have debt, include repayment goals in your budget. If possible, factor in retirement and emergency savings. Save money by giving up morning coffee – and cooking at home instead of getting takeout. Factor in any alternate income that you can think of, like selling unused items or part-time work in the gig economy.
If your goal is to lose weight, get in better shape, or improve your overall health, deciding to join a gym may be the first step. However, don’t just sign up at the first gym you see or visit. Before signing on the dotted line, research all options first!
Get the most from a gym membership by considering these tips from BBB:
- Determine your fitness goals. Determining your goals in advance will help you select a facility that is most appropriate for you. Consult with your physician before embarking on a new fitness regimen, especially if there are medical conditions that might be a concern.
- Figure out your priorities. What is most important to you? Will a convenient location and extended hours help you stick to your fitness plan? Will a variety of equipment or classes keep you motivated? Do you work out while traveling and prefer a chain with numerous outlets? Determine your top priorities before you start shopping around.
- Check BBB.org. Read what previous customers have to say, and see how the businesses respond to complaints. This information may help you narrow down the list of gyms you want to tour in person.
- Take a tour. Make sure the gym has the equipment, classes, and trainers you need or expect. Pay attention to things that are important to you, whether it’s the cleanliness of the showers or the availability of Wi-Fi. Ask questions and make sure you understand all the rules. Ask about busy times, wait times for equipment, whether classes require pre-registration, availability, and cost of trainers, etc. Ask how the gym staff is maintaining the cleanliness of the facilities.
- Ask questions about limited free trials. Gyms often give a one-week free pass for potential members; this is a great way to see if the gym is a good fit for you. Try the gym at different times to see how crowded it is and whether there is a wait for certain equipment. Check out classes if they are offered.
- Don’t feel coerced. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join right away. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities, do some research, and make an informed decision.
- Calculate the true costs. Gyms often use special introductory offers to encourage new members, but the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure you understand what the regular monthly fees will be and what they include.
- Understand the terms. Read the contract carefully before signing. Make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are in writing. What matters is the contract and the terms within it, so don’t just take a salesperson’s word for it. What happens if you move or the gym goes out of business? Will the membership renew automatically at the end of the term? What is the cancellation policy and under what circumstances?
For more information about BBB, visit BBB.org.
About BBB serving Eastern North Carolina
Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from over 4,200 local businesses and professional firms. BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by BBB include reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, consumer/business education programs and dispute resolution services. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration.