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Q: What advice is BBB offering for National Consumer Protection Week?

A: Worried about getting taken in by the latest scam? Concerned about the possibility that your ID could be stolen, and you suddenly find yourself saddled with thousands of dollars of surprise bills? This week could bring you some peace of mind.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) is among the partners working with the Federal Trade Commission (www.FTC.gov) to promote National Consumer Protection Week (www.consumer.FTC.gov) during February 28 through March 6. The week is devoted to informing consumers of their rights and educating the public about scam and ID theft prevention. You may have rights as a consumer that you did not realize you had – rights that could make all the difference in today's rough-and-tumble, internet-based financial landscape. Check out ftc.gov for a list of upcoming online events designed to give you the information you need to stay safe.

BBB's basics for safeguarding against scams

Guard yourself with these fundamental consumer protection tips:

* When someone you have not met asks you to send them money, especially by wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card, don't do it.

* Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or texts. That's how crooks put malware on your devices.

* Don't trust the legitimacy of something by its looks. Emails and websites are easy to fake with copied logos and graphics.

* Don't trust your Caller ID. It can be faked to read any way a crook wants it to read.

* Buy online only from legitimate sources with a website address that has the "s" in "https." Look for the lock icon in the address bar as well.

* Look up any company you're unfamiliar with at BBB.org.

* Treat your personal identification information like gold. Don't give it away to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Your banking, Social Security and insurance numbers should be closely guarded.

* Anyone pressuring you to act quickly could be a scammer who doesn't want you to have time to seriously consider the "offer."

* Get details in writing and read them thoroughly.

* Don't overshare on social media. Con artists can collect your information from such sources and use it to make you think they know you.

* Keep your travel plans to yourself and only share them after the fact.

* Shred junk mail, old documents, bills and medical paperwork.

* Monitor your accounts and check out any unknown transaction, even for tiny amounts (crooks start with small amounts to see if you pay attention).

* Use strong passwords and keep software and virus protections updated constantly.

* Be sure to check the FTC website for National Consumer Protection Week events designed to help you spot coronavirus scams that are now proliferating online.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga

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