BBB New Year’s resolutions for consumers: Ten simple steps to protect yourself in 2016

With the start of a New Year comes the chance to start again; the chance to turn the page and begin anew. There’s no better time to resolve to take steps that will protect your personal and financial information. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota offer some simple tips to help you be more prepared in 2016 – for anything that might come your way.

“There’s a lot of talk about fresh starts when one year ends and another begins,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “But there’s truth to it. Taking those first steps to achieve a goal gets you moving towards your desired destination.”

Simply by implementing these ten resolutions, consumers can make huge strides towards securing their finances and identity:

1. Check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it closely for errors and report any inconsistencies you see. Checking your credit report helps you catch signs of identity theft early.

2. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry by visiting donotcall.gov, or by calling 1-888-382-1222. This should reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive at home. You can also register your cellphone number on this list.

3. If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of unsolicited offers you receive through the mail, visit dmachoice.org/.

4. Dispose of older bank and credit card statements, expired credit cards and unwanted credit card solicitations securely by shredding them with a cross-cut paper shredder.

5. When using public Wi-Fi connections, don’t make any purchases or share any sensitive personal information. Public means public, and fraudsters are known to frequent Wi-Fi hotspots. Always verify the network before accessing it.

6. If you receive an offer or solicitation, research the company or charity for free with Better Business Bureau at bbb.org or 800-646-6222.

7. Never respond to phone calls or emails asking to “verify” your personal information. Your bank, your credit card provider, the IRS – none of these organizations will call or email asking for your confidential information. They already have it on file.

8. Secure or lock sensitive personal documents around your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work performed in your home.

9. Don’t store credit card numbers or other financial information on your smartphone or tablet. Add a passcode lock (or security password) on your smartphone or tablet.

10. Change your email and social media passwords and ‘beef up’ your security by creating hard to crack passwords. Choose passwords that are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. Incorporate a combination of numbers, capital letters and symbols. Avoid using the same password for all of your accounts, and never share your passwords with anyone else.

Though it’s nearly impossible to protect yourself completely from fraud and schemes, consumers who take these steps will be doing a lot to keep themselves safe and secure in the coming year.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.