Ditch the Pitch
Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Free Trial Period | Ten Resolutions for Being a Savvier Consumer in 2017 | Best Tricks for Beating Cyber Criminals This Halloween | How to Safeguard Your Wallet on the Road | Businesses Can Be Scammed Too | Little Known Facts about the Do Not Call Registry | Fighting Fraud on the Frontlines | Email is Not Secure | How to Opt Out of Unwanted Offers | Financial Monitoring Tools You've Overlooked | How to Start Saving Money Now
March 31, 2017
As a consumer, you have options when planning funeral services. Some people plan their funeral ahead of time by buying a preneed funeral contract. A preneed funeral contract allows you to plan and pay for your funeral in advance. Before you sign a contract for preneed funeral services, it’s important to do some research and understand what you are agreeing to.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs oversees preneed funeral contracts in South Carolina. Under state law, a funeral home must be licensed with SCDCA to sell preneed funeral contracts. A list of companies licensed to sell (PDF) these contracts is available on SCDCA’s Licensee Lookup.
When shopping for a preneed funeral contract, ask these important questions:
SCDCA has a helpful checklist and FAQs (PDF) to assist you when shopping for preneed funeral contracts. As with any contract, be sure to keep copies of all documents you sign and receipts of payments made.
If you think a funeral home has broken the law, please file a complaint with SCDCA.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Free Trial Period
February 28, 2017
Has someone offered you the chance to try something for free? Maybe a neat kitchen gadget, a beauty product, or even a magazine subscription? Some companies use a free trial period as a sales tactic to get you to spend your hard-earned money on their product or service. But if you forget to cancel it, return it, or notify the company by a certain date, you could be left with product you don’t want – and a big bill. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself from the possible pitfalls of a free trial period.
If the company hid details of the free trial in the terms and conditions, it might be hard to understand how the free trial is actually set up. Using these tips will help you know what to look (and what to avoid) when dealing with free trials.
Ten Resolutions for Being a Savvier Consumer in 2017
January 26, 2017
The new year is a time to evaluate bad habits and make new goals. While many focus on losing weight or exercising more, the resolutions below can get you on track to avoid scams and identity theft.
These simple resolutions can help you avoid common consumer pitfalls this year. Even if you resolve to do only one of the above, it could save you headaches in the future. For more information on protecting yourself from scammers and identity thieves, see SCDCA’s scam guide Ditch the Pitch (PDF).
Best Tricks For Beating Cyber Criminals This Halloween
October 27, 2016
October is Cyber Security Month, and while we may think that our information is usually stolen through breaches and hacks, we also unknowingly expose our own information. An online banking website can have all the security measures in the world, but if the computer you’re accessing it from has a virus, your information can easily fall into the wrong hands. As Cyber Security Month comes to an end, strengthen your security by using the following tricks:
Keep up with software updates! Outdated software can make it easier for scammers to hack your device.
Data security is a shared responsibility. Take the time to protect your information and it could save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. For more information on cyber security, check out www.stopthinkconnect.org. If you think a thief has your information, contact SCDCA’s Identity Theft Unit for help.
How to Safeguard Your Wallet on the Road
September 26, 2016
Though summer vacations are coming to an end, holiday travel will be ramping up before you know it. And while traveling can be an incredibly rewarding experience— it can leave you broke if you’re not careful! For this blog post, I’m going to assume you know how to budget, as that is the most important step in being able to travel at all. If you haven’t mastered the art of saving and spending, check out this post first. The following tips will help you keep your finances safe as you travel!
As with most things, preparing a bit on the front end can save you a lot of hassle and headache. And even if you’re not planning on traveling anytime soon, many of these tips are useful for every day. For more information on financial literacy and safety, visit SCDCA’s Consumer Education page.
Businesses Can Be Scammed Too!
August 26, 2016
As the state’s consumer protection agency, SCDCA is committed to warning consumers about scams. It’s easy to forget that scammers will gladly take money or personal information from anyone, including businesses. So, if you have never heard of a business being targeted, take a look at the common scams below and be sure to share with your friends and family:
When in doubt, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and call the person requesting the information directly. Remember, email is generally not a secure form of communication. So, sending sensitive personal or financial information this way can make it even easier for a scammer to steal. For more information on scams and to report them, visit SCDCA’s Scam Page. Businesses and consumers are encouraged to report scams to the Federal Trade Commission as well.
Little Known Facts about the Do Not Call Registry
July 26, 2016
One of the most commonly asked questions SCDCA gets is, “I registered my number with the Do Not Call Registry, so why am I still getting calls?” Many upset consumers think that the constant flood of phone calls will magically stop if they add their number to the list, but they are often unhappy with the outcome. While the Do Not Call Registry is a great tool to help cut down on calls, there are some exceptions that allow the calls to keep on coming.
Even if you’ve signed up for the registry, you may still receive calls from:
Sales calls should only be made between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If you think someone is breaking the rules, report them to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-888-382-1222, TTY 1-866-290-4236, or go to www.donotcall.gov and to the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322, TTY 1-888-835-5322, or at www.fcc.gov/complaints.
Fighting Fraud on the Frontlines
June 23, 2016
On June 1, 2016 SCDCA held a Fraud Forum meant to bring community service providers, consumers, and government together to collaborate on the best ways to deter fraud. The Forum featured speakers from the Department of Homeland Security, Microsoft, and the Federal Trade Commission. Each organization was able to talk about their approach to detecting and combatting fraud. The following tips and facts were noteworthy enough to make it to social media:
When it comes to #fraud if you see something, say something!@DHSgov #FraudForum
Ask your bank or credit union what resources they can offer to protect your accounts & info! #FreeAlerts@TheCCUL
Over 5,000 #SC residents reported #IDtheft to the @FTClast year alone! #FraudForum
Scams the @FTC says never go away are #travelscams, #timeshareresale, #reloading #scams, #sweepstakes,#charityfraud, etc.
#SC is number 24 in the nation for #fraud #complaintsreported to @FTC in 2015
An estimated $1.5 billion is lost to #tech #scams annually. @Microsoft
@Microsoft speaker says more than 250 entities are using the tech support scam to dupe consumers.
At the end of the day the SC Board of Financial Institutions, Consumer Finance Division (BOFI) and the Carolinas Credit Union League (CCUL) joined in to offer input with the other presenters on the best ways to collaborate to educate the public on how to avoid scams. BOFI offered tips on using their website to look up licensed lenders and the CCUL spoke on free alerts and tools that many credit unions have available. SCDCA shared Ditch the Pitch, a guide to avoiding scams. To request copies of the brochure, contact SCDCA’s Public Information Division by calling 800-922-1954 or access it online.
Email is Not Secure!
May 25, 2016
Email is a very common and useful form of communication. People from all walks of life use it as an efficient way to do business and keep in touch with family and friends. From CEOs of large companies to school children, it would be hard to find a person who hasn’t heard of email! While it may be convenient, it is important to avoid sending sensitive personal information via email. The following tips can help make your email experience safer and more enjoyable.
How to Opt Out of Unwanted Offers
April 21, 2016
One of the most common questions we get at SCDCA is, “how can I stop getting these annoying phone calls and mailings!?” The FREE tips below can help you get some peace if you’re bothered by mailings and phone calls that seem to have no end!
* You may still get calls and mailings from scammers, as they don’t follow the rules set by the groups covered in this post. Keep that in mind when you get calls or mailings from strangers. If you’re ever in doubt, hang up and follow up!
Financial Monitoring Tools You've Overlooked
March 24, 2016
The words IDENITITY THEFT can strike fear into most people. With the ever-present threat of becoming a victim of this crime showing up in the news, movies, and advertisements, it’s no wonder people are more actively guarding their information. If you’ve ever wondered, “what else could I be doing to protect myself?” the answer is here! These tips can help you protect and monitor your financial information in ways you may not have thought of before.
Account alerts. Most banks and credit unions have tools that you can use to easily track your finances. For example, you can set up alerts for purchases more than $50 or when your account balance drops below $250, etc. You can also choose if you’d like to have a text, call or email. The options are almost endless because the alerts can be tailored to your liking. Contact your bank or credit union for more information.
Sign up for my Social Security. This online tool lets anyone still working view estimates of future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, earnings and Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid. If you’re already drawing social security benefits, you can check your earnings record, change your address, phone number, or direct deposit information and more. Creating an account can help stop a scammer from doing so and re-routing social security checks by updating your direct deposit information. Visit https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ for more information.
Get your FREE credit report every 4 months. You can get three free credit reports each year, one from each credit reporting agency. If you want to keep a close eye on your reports, get one every 3-4 months. To request your report visit www.annualcreditreport.com. There are many services that offer your credit report – for a fee! Make sure you’re visiting the official website for getting your FREE credit report.
How to Start Saving Money Now
February 24, 2016
Save. Save. Save. It’s easier said than done for most of the population. And while we all know why we should save, strategies on how to save are much less obvious. So, in honor of America Saves Week, SCDCA is serving up some quick tips on how to jump-start your savings plans. Try one or try them all, either way, you’ll be one step closer to reaching that savings goal.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free, 1-800-922-1594.