Top 10 consumer tips

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

The Canadian Consumer Handbook is a great place to start. It is a handy reference on a wide range of topics like contracts, housing and home renovations, online shopping, identity theft, collection agencies, and many more. Reading it will help build your smart buying skills.

Aside from the handbook, be guided by these 10 tips when making decisions:

  1. Never be pressured
    Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Always remember that it is okay to say no and just walk away if a sales person is pressuring you to buy something. If it’s 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 be inclined to disclose personal information or agree due to pressure. You should never be rushed into making any decision, especially if it involves a large sum of money. Take time to think, consider alternatives, and check your budget before making a purchase.
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  3. Read and understand contracts before signing
    Read the fine print or have them explained to you. Many unfortunate experiences have resulted from not reading contracts thoroughly. If you do not understand what is written in a contract (for example your apartment lease), ask questions. Ask the agent to explain difficult words, unclear rules or conditions before agreeing 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 there during the transaction to provide assistance.
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  5. Never give out your SIN, credit card number or bank account number immediately
    Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is highly confidential because it is the key to your personal information. It is very easy for someone to use it fraudulently. You should share it only when you know it is legally required (Who can ask for my SIN?). Also read Your Social Insurance Number: A Shared Responsibility from Service Canada to know how to protect your SIN. Make it your policy to 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
    Go to the Better Business Bureau site to know if the company you are dealing with is legitimate. You can also do an online search or ask around if someone has dealt 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. Stay updated about the latest marketplace trends. 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 market news and events. They also provide tips on consumer safety.
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  11. Check your credit report
    Regularly checking your credit report and bank statements can help prevent identity theft or unauthorized credit card transactions. Read the article Understanding your credit history to know more about credit reports.
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  13. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
    Listen to your gut instincts and use 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 limits for spending. It also reminds you of your priorities. Read How to make a budget to learn how to make one.
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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. It will come in handy if you need to return, repair, replace or exchange a product. Some stores will also require you to have the product in its original packaging so keep these together with your receipt.

 
Article updated March 2, 2021.

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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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