Consumer First Alert: Tips to help you outsmart scammers in 2020

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new year, a new push to protect your privacy. Consumer First Alert wants to help you outsmart scammers in 2020.

The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin has released its list of New Year's Resolutions for a Consumer-Savvy 2020.

Here's the Top 10, courtesy of the BBB:

1. Implement a credit freeze. A credit freeze is the best way to protect yourself from financial identity theft because it restricts access to your credit file, making it impossible for identity thieves to apply for a new line of credit in your name. Best of all, it’s free to freeze and thaw your credit.

2. Use technology to block robocalls and other telemarketing calls. Nomorobo, a call blocking feature, can disconnect known telemarketers or scammers from your VoIP landline after one ring. It’s free for landlines; a nominal fee for cell phones. Go to www.nomorobo.com to begin. Make sure you’ve registered your phones with www.donotcall.gov, too.

3. Review your permissions and privacy settings on social media. If you’ve signed into an app or website using your social media credentials or taken a fun quiz on social media, you may have unwittingly given permission to third-party apps to access your personal information and contacts. On Facebook, go to “settings” and “apps and websites” to review.

4. Warn others and stop fraudsters by reporting scams to BBB’s Scamtracker. Scamtracker is a crowd-sourced website where you can report if you’ve been contacted by a scammer. Since reports are plotted on a map, you can also use Scamtracker to find out what’s happening in your area. Go to bbb.org/scamtracker for more information. Scamtracker reports also help BBB educate the public with more in-depth reports via our scam studies.

5. Check out businesses and charities first. A little research before you buy or donate to make sure you’re working with a reputable company or charity can save you a lot of time, money and heartache later. Check out companies and charities at bbb.org. BBB accredited businesses and charities have been evaluated by BBB, and meet and promise to maintain our Standards of Trust or Standards for Charity Accountability.

6. Use secure payment methods. A scammer’s favorite way to steal your money is by asking you to pay with either a gift card or a money wire transfer, such as Money Gram or Western Union. Why? Because these payment methods are irreversible. Credit card payments are more secure because, if fraud is suspected, the charge can be disputed. If you receive a request from someone claiming to be from the IRS, a debt collector or anyone else and they ask you to pay with a gift card or a money wire transfer, it’s almost always a scam.

7. Use a unique and complex password for every online account. Consider a passphrase, which is simply a long password made up of from a collection of multiple words, making them both easier to type and remember. Poor, easy-to-guess passwords are one of the most common ways cyber attackers can hack into your online accounts. If it’s too difficult to remember multiple passwords, consider a password manager. Then, you’ll only have to remember one unique and complex password instead of many.

8. Enable multi-factor authentication whenever it is available. Multi-factor authentication is when you are granted access to an online account only after you have successfully provided two or more pieces of evidence, such as your password AND a unique code generated by your smartphone, emailed or texted to you. With multi-factor authentication, if hackers steal your username and password, they still can't access your account.

9. Monitor your existing financial accounts. Gone are the days when you waited for your credit card statement to come in the mail for you to review. Sign up for online access so you can review your financial accounts daily. Better yet, take advantage of free text message alerts to notify you of activity, remind you when payments are due, etc.

10. File your taxes early. One common fraud during tax season involves identity theft. Scammers try to submit a return in your name and have your refund come to them. You can avoid this by beating them to it, and submitting your tax return early. Follow these BBB tips for finding the right tax preparer.