Tips for Consumer Protection Week

Today is “Slam the Scam” day, and it’s Consumer Protection Week. Are you in danger of being hooked by a scam or identity theft? How about some tips to protect yourself?

Even if you’re diligent, it’s hard to stay ahead of all the scams and fraud out there. And sadly, schemers catch unsuspecting consumers every day. So practice these four basic tactics now to avoid compromising your identity and your bank accounts:

  1. Stop sharing your private information.
  2. Make your phone number hard to get.
  3. Start blocking robo calls.
  4. Limit unsolicited mail, email.

1. Stop Sharing Data Now!

Most companies you do business with want personal information, and they have no problem asking (almost demanding) it. Think about financial institutions and credit card issuers. You don’t always have to provide everything such a company requests – and that’s what those privacy notices (usually in small print) are for. Read them!

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you have the right to “opt out” of sharing with companies not affiliated with the same corporate group. When you opt out, you limit what a company can share about you or market to you. Usually you must follow the directions to notify the requesting company by written reply (often found on the last page of the privacy notice).

If it’s a credit reporting company, you can opt out of getting unsolicited new credit card or insurance offers for five years by calling 888-567-8688 or visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com to begin the permanent opt-out process.

2. Marketers Got Your Number?

Telemarketing firms and other direct marketers keep calling and ads clog your inbox?  Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry for free, and you should get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days – use DoNotCall.gov or 1-888-382-1222. Keep in mind that political organizations, charities and phone surveyors are still permitted to call you. And be sure to carefully read sweepstakes forms or requests for “free” products you submit, since they are often attempts to get your permission for future calls.

To reduce unwanted email and postal mail for 10 years, register at http://www.DMAchoice.org. This service is offered by the Direct Marketing Association for a $2 processing fee.

3. Hanging Up Won’t Stop Robo Callers.

Scammers and illegal robocallers don’t care if your phone number is on the Do Not Call Registry. So the best defense is call blocking. Here are 4 options:

  • Check your phone carrier’s website or customer service rep to see if your phone plan offers call-blocking service (may be free or not).
  • See if your phone has a built-in option to block numbers or use the “Do Not Disturb” feature.
  • Download a call-blocking app (may be free or not) for your cell phone.
  • If you have a traditional land-line home phone that makes phone calls using the internet (VoIP), you can use internet call blocking. If you don’t have an internet-based phone line, install a call-blocking device and input numbers to filter or blacklist. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) can help you navigate this.

4. Limit the Spam You Get.

While you can’t stop it all, you can reduce the amount of unwanted email and spam that you have to sort through. You can:

  • Set up a filter for your email account to channel spam to a bulk email folder. Or you might limit exposure by using a “public” email address just for shopping, coupons, social media chats, newsletter and the like, and retain a separate email for personal/private use.
  • Before submitting an email address to as website, read the privacy policy and/or uncheck the box that allows mass emails for things like marketing.
  • Choose a unique, hard-to-guess email address to avoid the spammers that try to hit common combinations to send millions of messages.

Since today is “Slam the Scam” day, watch this quick YouTube from Social Security to pick up a few extra pointers.

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