Your 10 resolutions for a scam-free (well, almost) New Year

Just when you think you've figured out the bad guys, they come up with another con. But as a group, they made enough dumb maneuvers in 2009 to give us a good start on protecting ourselves in 2010.

Here are 10 resolutions to help keep your dollars from flowing the wrong way out of your wallet and otherwise protecting you from undue harm.

Resolved:

10. Know that "loan modifications" are for the most part a scam. Some are run by the same people that got us into the real estate financing catastrophe in the first place. Refinance with a reputable bank (or your existing bank) by all means, while interest rates are low. But you don't need to pay any of these scam artists to do what you can do yourself with a few phone calls. And don't pay any attention to the self-regulatory mechanisms this industry has dreamed up. Ignore phony credentials from The National Loss Mitigation Association, or Tariq "Rick" Rahim's Online Business Bureau.