Top 10 consumer tips

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A big part of being a smart consumer is being an informed one. As a newcomer to Manitoba, it is necessary to know your rights and responsibilities as a consumer, as well as the general rules of the market. This will help you make wise and safe choices for yourself and for your family.

You can start by reading the Canadian Consumer Handbook which is a handy reference on a wide range of topics such as online shopping, contracts, housing and home renovations, identity theft, collection agencies, and many more, to help you build your buying skills.

Aside from the handbook, be guided by these 10 tips that will help protect you when making purchasing decisions:

  1. Never be pressured
    There will be many instances when you will be faced with high-pressure sales tactics. Remember that it is polite to say no and just walk away. If the sales talk is over the phone, you can interrupt anytime to say that you are not interested, then hang up. The longer you stay to listen, the more you may disclose personal information, or be inclined to just agree due to pressure. You should never be rushed in making any decision, especially if it involves a large sum of money. Always take time to think things through before you make a purchase.
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  3. Read and understand contracts before you sign them
    Many unfortunate experiences have resulted from not reading contracts, including the fine print, thoroughly. If you do not understand what is written in a contract (for example your apartment lease), ask questions. You can ask the agent to explain hard words, unclear rules or conditions to you before you agree to sign. It is their job to make everything clear to you. You can also bring a friend, preferably someone knowledgeable about contracts, to be on hand during the transaction to help you sort things out.
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  5. Never give out your SIN, credit card number or bank account number
    Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is highly confidential because it is the key to your personal information; someone else can use it fraudulently. You should share it only when you know it is legally required (Who can ask for my SIN?). Better yet, download and read Your Social Insurance Number: A Shared Responsibility from Service Canada to know how to protect your SIN. Also, never email, or dictate your bank account or credit card information over the phone. Banks will never call you to supply information that they should already have.
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  7. Check businesses if you are not familiar with them
    To know if the company you are dealing with is legitimate, check with the Better Business Bureau. You can also do an online search or ask around if someone has had experience dealing with the establishment before transacting with them. Check Facebook, consumer review sites (for example Yelp or Amazon.com), or blogs.
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  9. Stay updated
    The best way to avoid being scammed is to be informed. Always be updated about the latest marketplace issues. An easy way to do this is to sign up for consumer alerts by email at the Manitoba.ca site. These alerts inform you about the latest news and provide tips on consumer safety.
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  11. Check your credit report
    Regularly checking this can help prevent identity theft or unauthorized credit card transactions. Read the article Understanding your credit history to know more about credit reports. Also, check your bank statements regularly.
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  13. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
    Listen to your instincts and logic. Offers that give you higher than normal returns must have a catch.
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  15. Create a budget
    Keeping a monthly budget helps you stay within your set limits for spending. It also reminds you of your priorities. Read How to make a budget to learn how.
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  17. Don’t buy things you don’t need even if they are on sale
    Many of us buy things on sale thinking that a need for it will come in the near future. But more often than not, we just stock these things in our cabinets to gather dust. If you really want to save money, don’t spend it on unnecessary things.
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  19. Keep your receipts
    Keep this as a proof of your purchase (depending on the product, some stores also require you to have the product in its original packaging). It will come in handy if you need to return, repair, replace or exchange a product.

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Community Resources

For more materials for financial literacy, access them at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Download the Little Black Book of Scams (Your Guide to Protection Against Fraud) from the Competition Bureau to be aware of various types of scams, how to protect yourself from them, and what to do if you have been a victim.

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Quiz

Top 10 consumer tips

Select the best summary for each consumer tip from in the article above.

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