Is someone asking you to pay for a transaction or bill with gift cards? Run — don’t walk — away from the deal, which could very well be a scam or fraud. (Photo credit: Stock image)

With a new year here, resolve to stay safe from scams and frauds

It’s not too late to make a resolution to protect yourself and your money

A new year often leads to new resolutions, as people make plans to change the way they live their lives, whether that means exercising more, eating better, or stepping away from electronic devices.

People should also be resolving to protect themselves from frauds and scams. Better Business Bureau has a list of five things people should stop doing in 2020 in order to protect themselves, and they don’t include hitting the gym or cutting out carbs.

• Do not waste money on unethical businesses or scams. When making a purchase or choosing a business, make careful decisions at the start which can save you time, money, and headaches later. Research the companies you deal with at, and check BBB Scam Tracker ( regularly to see what scams are happening in your area.

• Quit sending money to people you don’t know. If you haven’t verified a transaction, don’t pay for online purchases by wiring money to someone you do not know or have never met. In 2019, the majority of online purchase scams occurred when a payment was made in exchange for goods or services, but nothing was delivered. The most common products affected included pets, automobile parts, clothing, and cosmetics. Also, remember that retail gift cards are not an acceptable form of payment, so be suspicious if someone asks you to pay with gift cards. Use a credit card, as it offers extra protection in the event that something goes wrong.

• Do not share personal information with people you don’t know. No matter who they say they are, how attractive their online profile seems, where the caller ID says they are calling from, or what time of day the phone rings, do not share personal or financial information with a stranger. Fraudsters can spoof telephone numbers and/or create fake online identities. They also impersonate businesses, financial institutions, government departments, and other organizations we recognize and trust. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up and contact the organization directly by using a number on their website or on a document they sent to you via post or email.

• Stop oversharing on social media. Are you posting pictures—and the name of—your pet, your mother’s maiden name, or the elementary school you went to on social media, and then using these names as part of your passwords? This makes it extremely easy for your online accounts to be compromised. To make things worse, 73 per cent of users repeat the same password for multiple online accounts. Try to create strong passwords that vary across accounts and are difficult to guess, keeping in mind that every extra character in your password reduces the risk of your account being hacked. Also, change your passwords frequently—at least two or three times per year—and never share your passwords.

• Avoid abbreviating the year 2020. The Twenties are here again; hooray! However, writing “/20” without the first two digits may leave businesses and consumers vulnerable to scammers. Fraudsters can capitalize on the use of abbreviated dates in the new decade, altering document dates to their benefit by adding just two digits. For instance, the date “1/10/20” could be changed to “1/10/2019”, making businesses and consumers vulnerable to an array of fraud. Cheques, bank drafts, pay orders, bills, contracts, other legal documents and more could be susceptible to alteration if you skip two digits.

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