BBB TWICE A MONTH TIPS YOU CAN TRUST
Compiled by Zan Deery, Communications/Investigations
For the Week of 9/7/10
800-356-1007 or 509-455-4200
Readers of these tips should take into consideration the importance of the practice in question and the total performance of a company.
For complete information and BBB reports, please visit www.bbb.org
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NEED AN APARTMENT FOR COLLEGE, NEW JOB, RELOCATION? BEWARE OF THIS CURRENT RENTAL SCHEME
BBB received a call from a Tri Cities father who was trying to secure housing for his son. He found this site, and paid them a $250 UPFRONT deposit via wire. Now they won’t respond to his calls.
Given the nature of this site, and the inability to know where, exactly, they are located (given the list of numbers they provide in various parts of the country), as well as the inability to get a hold of them with concerns or issues, we issue this warning. The biggest red flag here is the way the information concerning the company’s location is “explained” in a right-hand bar on the main page.
BBB attempted to contact the 509# listed, and found that it just rang and rang. The following “Rental Office” BBB reports have F ratings:
BBB has an AZ report for this company here. This is the most reasonable match for what the web site states regarding the company being an “Arizona corporation.”
But, BBB also has a report for The Rental Office out of Kitchener, Canada, here
If you have fallen victim to this web site, we strongly urge you to file a complaint with your local police department, as well as with the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center at: www.ic3.gov Never make an upfront deposit for anything via wire transfer. You are at 100% risk.
And, away we go!
TIP NUMBER ONE
BILLINGS, MT GRANDMOTHER TARGETED BY GRANDPARENT SCAM: SMART GRANDMOTHER KNEW RIGHT, DIDN’T BITE!
BBB spoke with a Billing woman almost in tears over a brush with a scammer trying to pull a fast one over on her. Here is what she relayed to BBB:
Someone randomly called her in the morning claiming to be her grandson. The scammer made mention of his correct first name. He (the scammer) proceeded to say in a panic that he’d been caught with cocaine and needed help getting bailed out of jail.
Our Billings grandmother didn’t think it sounded like her grandson, so she asked him his last name. He gave the wrong last name. This was when she realized that she was being played in a potential scam and hung up on the person.
The woman wondered how the scammers were able to gain correct first names, and concluded that when her husband recently passed away, they posted an obituary to the paper. She believes the scammer got her and her grandson’s names from the posted obituary notice.
BBB WARNING ABOUT THIS SCAM WITH TIPS AND ADVICE
TIP NUMBER TWO
Richland, WA Police Warn of Ongoing Mystery Shopping Check Scam
The Richland Police Department has received reports over the last couple of weeks of a common check fraud scam. The most recent reports involve victims being contacted via email for a secret shopper customer service review job. Once the victim agrees to the job, they are sent a check and told to deposit the check and keep a certain amount as their paycheck, then wire the remainder back via Western Union. They are told that they are to use Western Union so they can review their customer service as well. These checks are fraudulent.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND BBB ADVICE
Citizens are reminded that anytime you have to deposit a check, take part of the deposit and send some money back, it is a scam. Not only are you out the entire amount of the check that you deposited, your bank account information has also likely been comprised when the check was routed back to the criminal. You should not have to pay money to earn money or win money. This could also be considered a form of money laundering, which could result in criminal charges against the person depositing the check. If you cash and wire, and/or spend any of the monies, you are 100% responsible for the funds.
For follow up information, contact Officer Erica Tungesvik at 509-942-7636. Visit www.bbb.org for tips on common scams.
TIP NUMBER THREE
iTech Electronics Shorts Out in Resolving Customer Disputes
Consumers Say Company Delays and Misdiagnoses Repairs, Often Doesn’t Return Products
iTech Electronics of TX has earned an F rating with BBB for failure to resolve consumer disputes. The Austin-based company offers repair services for Apple products, such as iPhones and iPods, to consumers nationwide.
Over the past year, several consumers across Central Texas and the U.S. filed complaints with BBB alleging that products they sent to iTech Electronics have not been returned. The company has not been responsive to these consumers, despite the fact that they have been holding on to the consumers’ products for several months. Additional consumer complaints filed with BBB allege that the company misled them about the amount of service time needed, and in some cases, failed to repair the product after an extended amount of service time.
Currently BBB reports that eight of the company’s thirteen disputes remain unresolved. In cases where the company has responded, consumers say the responses are elusive and generic, leaving the specific complaint or request for refund unanswered. Click here to view iTech Electronics’ current BBB Business Review.
MIDWAY THROUGH TIP STOPS
(Like Pit Stops, Only More Informative)
HIRING A TRUSTWORTHY REPAIR SERVICE
• Check with BBB. Look up the BBB Business Review of any service or repair company to see how they have addressed any consumer disputes in the past.
• Use a specialist. Try to find a repair service that specializes in fixing your specific item. Generally, these businesses will be able to diagnose the problem more accurately and may be able to fix the problem more efficiently than others.
• Solicit multiple bids. Get estimates from at least three different companies before making a decision. BBB offers a free eQuote service to put consumers in touch with BBB Accredited Businesses who will email estimates to them at no cost.
• Get a receipt and a warranty. These will protect you if the repairs do not fix the problem or the item stops working again after a short time period. Read the fine print carefully to make sure there is a procedure for getting additional repairs or your money back if needed.
HIRING A ROOFER YOU CAN TRUST
There was unpredictable weather in the region this season that caused a lot of fly-by-nite contractors to surface in various communities throughout the Northwest. When looking for a roofer you can trust, BBB recommends that homeowners:
*Start Your Search with BBB. In addition to having Reliability Reports on tens of thousands of contractors—good and bad—across the US, you can also rely on BBB’s Accredited Business Locator: (FREE APP SIGN UP HERE: http://www.azigo.com/landing/bbb.html) to find trustworthy roofers in your area. BBB Accredited roofers have pledged to uphold BBB’s Standards for Trust and are contractually obligated to resolve all complaints filed with the BBB.
*Vet the Contractor Carefully. Verify the business meets all state and local requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. Also ask the business for references from recent jobs. Confirm whether or not the roofer will be subcontracting the job or relying on his or her own employees.
*Beware of Storm Chasers. In the wake of a storm, fly-by-night repair businesses will solicit work, often door to door, in unmarked trucks. They might require advance payment and make big promises that they won’t deliver on.
*Get at least three bids. Beware of lowball estimates that may potentially balloon over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come.
Recognize the red flags. Beware of any contractor that uses high pressure sales tactics or requires full payment upfront. Also avoid contractors that require you to get the necessary permits.
*Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor and any warranties or guarantees.
For more advice on hiring professionals you can trust, visit us online at http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-home/.
GOOD SEGUE TO THIS BBB BLOG BITE…
Why Do Scams and Cons Always Seem to Follow Disasters?
Someone posed the question above to us recently, and it really made us think. The Better Business Bureau would like to start by saying that the vast majority of people are honest; scammers make up a very small percentage of our society. In fact, the argument could be made that a significant portion of the scams that target Americans originate outside our country. But, to be sure, there’s no shortage of dishonest operators doing ‘business’ right here in the U.S. And as the saying goes, a few bad apples can certainly spoil the bunch.
Read more: http://www.bbb.org/us/post/why-do-scams-and-cons-always-seem-to-follow-disasters-6080
TIP NUMBER FOUR
EDIFI Approaching College-Bound Students with Seminars
Has F rating with BBB
College-bound high school students are being contacted about a free seminar offered by Edifi. This company is in the business of providing services to help students and families for prepare for college, conduct college searches, and find funding for a college education.
Edifi’s BBB report reflects a pattern of complaints from consumers who report misleading sales practices and dissatisfaction with the service. The company responds to most complaints by offering an explanation of their services. Many consumers remain dissatisfied because the company will not, in most cases, cancel the contract after the company’s five day cooling-off period, leaving their complaint unresolved.
BBB BUSINESS REVIEW FOR EDIFI
Past UT BBB Warning
In addition, many subjective reviews about Edifi can be found on various college admission-related web sites.
TIP NUMBER FIVE
BBB BLOG Beware: The Truth about Wire Transfers
Thanks to Cincinnati BBB and Author Janice Clemente
Money transfers can be convenient when you want to send funds to someone you know, like a trusted friend or relative. But money transfers are extremely risky when you’re dealing with a stranger or an unfamiliar business. Money transfers happen to be the preferred payment method of scammers. Why? Simply because wiring money is fast, irreversible and virtually untraceable.
A victim may not be aware for days, sometimes even weeks that they have become victims of a scam. However, money sent by wire can be in the scammer’s hands in a matter of minutes. Typically, there’s no way to reverse a wire transfer once the money has been picked up and tracing where the money goes is nearly impossible. The receiver is not always required to show identification or even provide a verifiable mailing address. Scammers know they can pick up the money at virtually any location (from Cleveland, OH to Kolonia, Micronesia), so it’s just about impossible to pinpoint exactly where the scammers are operating in time to stop the transaction.
Sending money across US borders compounds the risk. Sad to say, most local police departments just don’t have the budget, manpower or jurisdiction to hunt down and extradite foreign nationals for fraud crimes against US citizens.
BBB asks you to pay special attention to any situation that asks you to wire money. Here are some of the typical wire transfer fraud scenarios consumers should watch out for:
Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams: The letter says you just won a lottery. All you have to do is deposit the enclosed cashier’s check and wire money for “taxes” and “fees.” Regardless of how legitimate the check looks, it’s fake. When it bounces, you’ll be responsible for the money you sent.
Overpayment Scams: Someone answers the ad you placed to sell something and offers to use a cashier’s check, personal check or corporate check to pay for it. But at the last minute, the buyer (or a related third party) comes up with a reason to write the check for far more than the purchase price, asking you to wire back the difference. The check is counterfeit. Not only do you lose the item you sold, when the check bounces you covering the money you sent to the scammers, too.
Mystery Shopper Scams: You’re hired to be a mystery shopper and asked to evaluate the customer service of a money transfer company. You get a check to deposit in your bank account and instructions to withdraw the amount in cash and wire it to Canada or another country. When the counterfeit check bounces, you’re responsible to cover the wire out of your own pocket.
Online Purchase Scams: You’re buying something online and the seller insists that money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable. Demand to use a credit card, an escrow service or another way to pay. If they insist you can only pay by money transfer, be prepared to walk away from the deal. It’s a sure sign you won’t get the item – or your money back.
Apartment Rental Scams: You come across a great deal on a low rent apartment but you are required to wire money for an application fee, security deposit or the first month’s rent. More than likely, the listing bogus and the scammers used below-market rental prices to lure you into sending them your hard-earned money.
Advance Fee Loans Scams: You find an ad that guarantees you a personal loan or a credit card regardless of your credit history. When you apply, you find out you have to pay a fee in advance. If you have to wire money for the promise of a loan or credit card, you’re dealing with a scam artist. Legitimate loans deduct fees from the loan amount when the funds are dispersed to you and will never ask you to pay a loan fee upfront.
Any individual who suspects that he or she may have been victimized of wire transfer fraud you should file a complaint with the BBB. Victims are also strongly urged to report it to their state's Attorney General's Office, their local police and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) at 877-382-4357. If the wire transfer was sent to Canada, victims can also seek the assistance of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre, otherwise known as PhoneBusters (www.phonebusters.com), by calling 888-495-8501.
OTHER BBB TOPICS ON THE RADAR
SCAMMER CALLING FOR CREDIT CARD NUMBERS
Caller ID “Spoofing” Fraud Targets BBB Accredited Business
Thx to the WWA BBB for this Warning!
Washington State residents have reported suspicious phone calls from an alleged business trying to collect credit card numbers and personal identification numbers—allegedly, for verification purposes. The unknown caller identifies Evergreen as the business name.
Better Business Bureau warns consumers not to respond; this is a caller ID fraud scam.
Calls appear to be coming from 502-568-8884. However, the caller has spoofed the number on the caller ID to match a phone number that belongs to an unaffiliated Kentucky-based business: The Zoppoth Law Firm, a BBB Accredited Business.
BBB is still investigating the origin of the unidentified caller.
BBB advises residents to steer clear of anonymous requests for personal information:
1. Be wary of requests to "verify" information, especially if the caller is claiming affiliation with a well-known business or government agency.
2. Never give out credit card information or Social Security numbers to unknown or unsolicited requests.
3. If interested in making a purchase over the phone, verify authenticity first. Request the caller's name, company name, address, and phone number; inform them that you will contact them if interested. If the representative refuses to give out basic company information, don't bother.
• Research the company name on the Internet. Be skeptical if negative results show up; make sure the company information provided matches with what's posted online. Check on www.bbb.org for a BBB Reliability Report.
• Contact the company using contact information found on their official website or in a public directory—do not rely on the information the caller provided.
• When contacting the company, confirm that the call received was legitimate; verify that the solicitor is a valid employee and that the call actually came from the company. BBB recommends getting written materials or agreements before making purchases over the phone.
Visit www.bbb.org for more tips on avoiding scams.
National Magazine Exchange on BBB Radar
Consumers are receiving calls from National Magazine Exchange, which goes by a variety of dbas (listed below). This company offers magazine sales via phone and a telemarketing call center for various companies and products.
Recent calls ask consumers to purchase magazines and give credit card/ bank account information. The company also mails notices inviting people to call and enter the Million Dollar "Strike It Rich" Sweepstakes. There is no purchase necessary to enter the sweepstakes. The odds of winning are determined by the number of people who enter. The company estimates the odds at no more than 1 in 26 million. The sweepstakes promotion is used by the company to promote magazine subscriptions.
BBB BUSINESS REVIEW
The business also uses several other names:
Agora Marketing Solutions, Inc.
National Publishers Exchange
National List Exchange
National Clearing Exchange
Million Dollar Sweepstakes
Strike It Rich 2 Sweepstakes
N.M.E Magazine Services
NME Prize Disbursement
Fantasy Riches Sweepstakes
Agora Marketing Solutions
*Ask for the total yearly cost of each magazine and for the whole package. Before you agree to buy anything, ask to receive a written copy of the sales terms offered over the telephone and put that copy in a safe place.
*If you're contacted by a magazine telemarketer, listen carefully to the initial sales presentation. Don't be afraid to interrupt and ask questions.
*If it sounds like a good deal and you're interested in buying, ask the caller for his name, and the name, address and phone number of the company.
*Do not give out your credit card number before verifying whom it is you are talking to and checking out the company.
Online Dog Breeder Amanda’s Puppies of TX
Earns F Rating from BBB, Sells Puppies at www.maltipoopup.com
Multiple Disputes Allege Poor Health of Purchased Puppies and Mislabeled Breeds
According to customer complaints filed with BBB, the Austin-based company advertises and sells puppies on the Internet at www.maltipoopup.com for as much as $950. The owner of the company, Amanda Schnell, has responded to one consumer dispute, but others remain unresolved.
FULL WARNING WITH TIPS HERE
BBB Warns Public about Fraudulent, Aggressive Collection Calls: Law Group of CA aka United Attorney Services aka Cyber Crime Unit of CA
Unclear how Sensitive Information is Being Obtained by Collectors
The Better Business Bureau is warning about reports of fraudulent and aggressive collection calls targeting area consumers by the above-mentioned company located in California. In some cases, consumers have been threatened with arrest if they don’t pay off alleged debts immediately.
The BBB urges the public not to be intimidated and/or panicked by debt collectors or people claiming to be debt collectors, and to keep in mind that people have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under that Act, debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse debtors or any third parties they contact, nor can they state that anyone will be arrested if they don’t pay their debt.
FULL STORY HERE
ID Theft Focus: Be Aware of Restaurant Scams
Thx to http://www.creditloan.com/ for this Tip
We hear a lot about preventing identity theft these days. Mostly it refers to restricting access to your personal information, such as your Social Security number. Another example of identity theft, which may not be so obvious, is the theft of credit card numbers in such places as restaurants.
FULL STORY HERE
Unwanted Faxes from EnviroFax Commission Resurface
What does the fax from EnviroFax Commission offer?
The fax is headlined “Fax Us Your Unwanted Faxes” and gives a toll-free fax number. The offer: “We will contact the sender and have your fax number permanently removed from their fax list.”
The BBB notes that, under a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule, anyone can “opt-out”, or ask to be removed from a fax sender’s list. No one is required to send a fax number to EnviroFax Commission or any other service in order to be removed from a sender’s list.
What is EnviroFax Commission?
According to the fax, “EnviroFax Commission is a nonprofit corporation. Its assistance is FREE. EnviroFax does not sell goods or services and will not contact you.”
The BBB hasn’t been able to learn any further information about EnviroFax Commission, or confirm that it’s a non-profit organization. An Internet search didn’t turn up a Web site or an address.
Why is EnviroFax making this offer? What is EnviroFax doing with fax numbers it collects?
EnviroFax claims it is offering this service because “Many recipients do not take the time to remove faxes or opt-out improperly which results in continued unwanted faxes.”
Why would an organization offer – for free – to help recipients stop unwanted faxes? One guess is that EnviroFax Commission isn’t a nonprofit organization at all, but is a business. EnviroFax might be collecting active fax numbers (that is, numbers that recipients fax back from) in order to use those active numbers to send additional faxes or to sell to fax blasters.
How can you stop junk faxes?
If the fax has contact information for the junk fax sender, send an "opt-out" request to take your fax number off the sender's list. Your request must include the fax number or numbers for your request, and must be sent to the telephone number, fax number, Web site address, or email address on the unwanted fax.
Unwanted Fax Tip Sheet from the FCC:
GOING TO THE FAIR? DON'T BE TAKEN FOR A RIDE
Getting Deals, Understanding the Cooling-Off Rule and More
Thx to the WWA, OR, AK BBB for this Tip Sheet
Fair season is here and Better Business Bureau (BBB) provides fair shopping strategies:
Tickets and deals: Visit the official fair website before it begins to check for pre-event ticket promotions and see if there will be special events or discounts on specific days. Be cautious when purchasing tickets from third parties not recommended by the fair.
Bring cash: Some vendors may only accept cash. Avoid ATM surcharges and lines by planning ahead.
Shop around: Don't be pressured by aggressive sales pitches, multiple vendors may have the product. Genuine solicitors will appreciate your business when you're ready.
Small purchases: Inspect the item thoroughly for quality. Remember that it is difficult to return most fair-bought items.
- Ask for contact information. Grab a business card and get the representative's name, business name, address, phone number, and if available, a website.
- Check out a business. Instead of making big purchases at the fair, get the information and research it at home. If it's is a fair-only promotion, consumers can use phones with internet accessibility to research the business online. Visit www.bbb.org for a free BBB Reliability Report and visit the business website.
- Understand contracts. If signing, read it to be sure all agreements are contained.
- Pay by credit card for purchases of $50 or more. If a problem arises, most credit cards allow consumers to contest charges of $50 or more.
Know the laws for purchases of $25 or more: The Federal Trade Commission's Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives customers three days to cancel some purchases that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business.
- At the time of sale, make sure to receive a contract or receipt that is dated, shows the name and address of the seller and explains the cancellation rights. Plus, get two copies of a cancellation form; one would be sent to the company if cancelling.
- The Cooling-Off Rule does not cover: sales under $25; goods and services not primarily intended for personal, family or household purposes; sales as a result of prior negation at the seller's permanent business location; real estate, insurance or securities; motor vehicles; and arts or crafts sold at fairs. For additional exceptions and requirements visit ftc.gov.
AGENCY POSTS AND WARNINGS
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION www.FTC.gov
New FTC Regulations Protect Consumers from Debt Relief Companies
September and October 2010 Changes Will Prohibit Advance Fees and Misrepresentations
The Federal Trade Commission recently announced amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule which will prohibit for-profit companies that sell debt relief serves over the phone from collecting any advanced fees prior to settling or reducing debt. These new regulations offer consumers additional protections when trying to reduce credit card or other unsecured debt.
FULL STORY HERE
New IRS E-mail Scam Lures Victims with Claim of Rejected Tax Payment
The Internal Revenue Service issued an alert today regarding a new e-mail scam that uses the name of the government's Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) to lure victims.
FULL WARNING HERE