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Tips for avoiding scams in 2016

In this Nov. 2, 2009 file photo, a customer swipes a MasterCard debit card through a machine while checking-out at a shop in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

The Better Business Bureau has 10 tips for protecting yourself from being scammed in 2016.

Check it out: Before spending money, visit www.bbb.org/chicago. The free website features business rates and customer reviews.

If it's too good to be true, it is: Anything free typically comes with a catch. This caution goes for foreign lotteries, mystery shopper offers and credit repair scams. How do these cheat you? All foreign lotteries are illegal. Mystery shopping checks may be fraudulent. Credit repair services cannot erase correct information, no matter how much they charge.

Never pay in full upfront: A small down payment is a reasonable request for a home services contractor who may be doing a contracting job for you. A consumer loses control when they pay before work is done and there is no guarantee that work will be done.
Shred it: Anything that contains personal information for identity thieves, such as financial records or old personal papers, should be automatically shredded.

Check your credit report: Get a free copy at www.annualcreditreport.com. Some services provide free reports, but then use your email to send you spam.

Read the contract: Check the fine print. If something is not clear, ask questions. A salesperson may promise something, but if the contract doesn't include it, you have no recourse.

Don't give out personal info: A favorite trick of scammers is to call or email about a supposed problem with your credit or bank account. Then, they ask for complete identity information. Don't give it to them. A legitimate caller would already have your information.

The government won't email: No matter how official it may look, government agencies such as the IRS, do not use emails to request initial information. These agencies also don't demand payment within 30 minutes, as some scammers represent.

Check charities before giving: No one wants their money to be wasted when giving to a charitable cause. Visit www.bbb.org/chicago or www.give.org to check out whether a charity is a worthwhile cause.

Warn others: When you get ripped off, tell others including the Better Business Bureau to help others protect themselves.
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