Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard: Some new year promises are harder to keep than others. Here are eight consumer resolutions that should be easy to maintain and will serve you well in 2010.
Some new year promises are harder to keep than others. Here are eight consumer resolutions that should be easy to maintain and will serve you well in 2010.
1. Get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. This Web site provides a free report from each of the three national credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - every 12 months. In addition to giving your credit score, the report contains information that can help prevent or stop identity theft.
2. Don't respond to unknown solicitations by phone, e-mail or regular mail. Be suspicious of "risk-free" trial offers, especially any that require a credit card number to pay for shipping and handling. The card could be used to bill you for subsequent shipments of the product unless you take sometimes difficult steps to opt out.
3. If you received any gift cards over the holidays, check expiration dates or fees to be sure you get the most from your gift.
4. If you want to make a charitable contribution, make sure you know enough about the organization to be sure the money will be used for your intended purpose. Don't be shy about inquiring about the charity's mission, overhead and effectiveness. Don't allow anyone to pressure you and get information in writing.
5. Do your online shopping at secure Web sites. Using these sites will help ensure that personal information, including credit card numbers, is transmitted to the merchant safely without being intercepted by a third party. You can identify secure sites by looking for Web addresses that begin with "https" and for a small padlock icon at the bottom of the page. Use a secure online payment site (such as PayPal) to be sure you get what you paid for. Credit cards are still preferred over debit cards for best online shopping security.
6. If you are facing foreclosure, don't fall victim to promises from anyone charging an upfront fee and promising to work with your lender to modify your loan. Instead, contact the Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Helpline at (877) 448-1211 for a referral to a federal-certified counselor and receive free assistance.
7. Be leery of any offer or prize that sounds too good to be true. If you didn't buy a ticket for a lottery, sweepstakes or other contest, you didn't win. If a travel offer or other deal sounds unbelievably good, chances are there's an expensive catch. Make sure you know all the details of any sensational offer and read the fine print.
8. Report a rip-off. If you believe a business or person has engaged in an unfair or deceptive practice, file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office at www.azag.gov. Consumer complaints often reveal patterns of wrongdoing and lead to investigations and prosecutions. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into a secure online database used by law enforcement authorities across the nation.
Terry Goddard is Arizona's attorney general and has created an exploratory committee for a potential campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.