April is National Financial Literacy Month. It’s a great opportunity for consumers to check and promote their financial situation and skills. For people who have just started earning or have been earning for a long time, every day is a chance to reflect on spending and improve finances.
While the financial month is often about managing money and building savings, the Federal Trade Commission is emphasizing scam prevention; protecting what consumers have, and what they’re building.
The agency offers these tips for avoiding scams:
- If you’re asked to pay for something with a gift card, that’s a scam. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments.
- Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a call, e-mail, or text that you didn’t expect.
- If you’re looking for a job, never pay to get one.
- Resist pressure to act immediately. Scammers want you to pay or give them your personal information before you have time to think.
- Stop and talk with someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell a friend, a family member, or a neighbor what happened.
Specific scams include:
- Job scams. Scammers post fake job ads for mystery shoppers, personal assistants, or caregivers. If you apply, they might send you a check, tell you to deposit or cash it, keep some, and send the rest to someone else. The check is fake, and the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew.
- Business opportunity scams. Pyramid scheme promoters may say you can change your life – quit your job, even get rich – by selling the company’s products. That’s a lie. Your income is based mostly on how many people you recruit, not how much product you sell.
- Business coaching scams. Offers for online business coaching programs that promise guaranteed income with no experience, large returns, or a “proven system” are probably scams.
Also during Financial Literacy Month, the FTC is urging everyone in the United States to get a free credit report each week from all three nationwide credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
By checking your credit reports you’ll be able to see if someone is misusing your personal information to run up charges on your credit cards, get new credit or open a new account in your name, and steal your identity. Follow these steps:
- Order your free credit reports. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228.
- Read the reports carefully. Do you recognize the accounts? Do they list credit applications? Did you apply for credit at those places? Check your personal information too. Are your name, address, and Social Security number correct?
- Dispute mistakes. Contact the credit bureau and the business that reported the information. Ask both to correct their records. Include as much detail as possible, plus copies of supporting documents, like payment records. If you don’t recognize an account, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report it to the FTC and get a recovery plan.
Other tips for National Financial Literacy month include:
- Save for emergencies. Most financial advisors recommend that you have three to six months of living expenses saved for emergencies.
- Improve your credit score. Raising your credit score gives you access to better loans and more affordable interest rates.
- Save and invest in your future. Explore retirement options offered by your workplace and/or meet with a certified financial planner about other investing options.