Becoming a knowledgeable consumer takes a little extra effort, but it pays off in the end.
Step 1: Be wary Be wary of all offers you receive as a consumer. The promises made by companies trying to get your money may be exaggerated.
TIP: Check out businesses with the Better Business Bureau before you spend money on a product or service.
Step 2: Don't assume all offers are legitimate Don't assume that an offer that is labeled "no-risk" is in fact what it purports to be. Sometimes free-trial offers require you to pay shipping costs, which may cost more than the product is worth.
Step 3: Get it in writing Obtain promises from companies in writing. Remember -- if it's not in the sales contract, it's not guaranteed.
TIP: Always read and understand a contract to have work done.
Step 4: Use credit cards Make purchases with credit cards rather than debit cards. If you pay with a credit card, and later have a dispute with the company, you can contact your credit card company and have the charges removed from your bill while they investigate. This is not always possible with a debit card.
Step 5: Don't shop blindly Don't blindly shop for the lowest prices. If the price is low but the merchandise shoddy, you may end up paying more for repairs than if you bought the more expensive item in the first place.
Step 6: Be mindful Be mindful of scams. You can only fall for a scam by being a willing participant. If someone offers you a free loan but asks for your credit card number, you should realize something is not right.
Step 7: Contact the BBB Contact the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General or Consumer Protection Office in your state if you fall for a scam. Now you can shop with confidence.
FACT: The Better Business Bureau was founded in 1912.