By Ginger Allen

NORTH TEXAS (CVSDFW.COM) – “OPEN” signs flashed outside North Texas gyms today inviting the regulars and newcomers to hit the gym on this first day of 2013. Images of thin, fit people are displayed next to signs that advertise the “2013 Fit Challenge.”

Businesses know you are ready for a new beginning. But, creative advertisers know this also. And, in many cases, they are preying on your desire to make a new start.

“You might see a lot of advertisements because companies know it’s the time of year you are looking for such a thing and they step up their advertising.” Jeannette Kopko with the Dallas Better Business Bureau is warning you to watch out for on-line pop ads.

In the past losing weight and teeth whitening offers have been the focus of federal litigation. “A couple of years ago, businesses were offering weight loss supplements, acai berry, and also ways to whiten your teeth. And they were called free trial offers.  You would sign up and you didn’t realize when you clicked for this item, you were also agreeing to pay every month like 20 dollars or so.” The Federal Trade Commission shut down some of the companies; however, Kopko is warning consumers to be aware of similar free-trial offers that typically pop up this time of year.

You should also be aware of high dollar-quick fixes when it comes to your budget. If improving your credit report is your resolution, it’s important for you to know your rights.  Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you get one free credit report a year. You can challenge anything that is negative on your report. And, you can submit your side of any negative story to be included on your report. These services are all provided to you at no cost, so you may not need to hire someone to do it for you.

“Be leery of something that has a ‘guarantee,’” says Kopko. Another common resolution is deciding to stop smoking. Watch out for offers that lure you in with words like “guarantee” and then require you to pay in full, up front.

And finally, the number one resolution we make is joining a gym. “There are a lot of people that like to come in and walk around. They’re all getting ready for the New Year,” says Chris Garcia. Garcia is a Fitness Consultant at Gold’s Gym in Dallas where he says they always anticipate more traffic this time of year. The BBB warns you to use your brain muscle before you start working out. Read those contract carefully. Ask yourself several questions: What am I getting? What does it cost? Can I cancel this policy? And, can I get my money back?

Simply put– resolutions are wonderful, especially when you fulfill them, but you need to resolve to being a savvy consumer first! It will likely save you in the end.

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