All posts tagged consumer protection

DSEF & BBB: 7 Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen

DSEF & BBB: 7 Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen

Identity-Theft-150x150By Katie Burgoyne

Many people associate “Identity Theft” with a major security breach on their credit or debit card which results in the loss of thousands of dollars. Dramatics aside, identity theft is a very serious crime that happens more often than you would like to believe. Besides banking fraud, your identity can be compromised in a slew of other ways.

The first step towards protecting yourself is identifying where you are at risk.  An article by HowLifeWorks.com refers to some common channels through which fraud can occur:

  • Insurance – Someone uses your Social Security number to obtain the insurance they need, such as home, automotive, etc.
  • Medical – Someone uses your health insurance to get treatment, costing you money while placing incorrect and potentially harmful information in your medical records.
  • Criminal – A person gets arrested and is able to believably claim that they’re you. Then they jump bail, and the cops are hunting for you.
  • Driver’s License – Someone steals your license and makes a duplicate with their image.
  • Social Security – This gives thieves open control of your life, including buying houses in your name and then defaulting on the loans.
  • Synthetic – A person uses information from numerous victims, creating a new bogus identity; this makes it extremely difficult to figure out what’s going on and how many victims are involved.
  • Child – Most children have Social Security numbers, but we seldom check to see if they have a credit file. That means criminals can use their identity for years and never be caught.

To read the full article, visit http://www.howlifeworks.com/finance/7_Ways_to_Have_Your_Identity_Stolen_379.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: The “Skinny” on Weight Loss Advertising

DSEF & BBB: The “Skinny” on Weight Loss Advertising

blue_with_website-225x30022By Melanie Alakkam

It’s almost swimsuit season, and the weight loss industry is energized!  Marketdata Enterprises forecasts the US weight loss industry will reach $66 billion in 2013. Most people aspire to have that “bikini body” by summer.  With so many diets, weight loss programs, and pills on the market today, which plan or program is right for you?

Advertisers should be prepared to show the facts that claims are based on. Here’s where BBB plays a role, by asking businesses to show substantiation for claims in advertising.

In its ongoing review of advertising, BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas recently reached out to Bouari Clinic of Frisco, TX. The clinic offers a weight loss assistance program. BBB asked for proof of these claims:

  • The average male patient loses up to 1 pound of fat per day.  
  • The average female patient loses up to ½ to ¾ pounds of fat per day.
  • The average female may expect to lose about 25 lbs in 40 days and the average male may expect to lose about 35 lbs in 40 days.
  • Bouari Clinic Advantage Oral Spray regulates and improves the function of organs and glands to normalize their activity… to stimulate healthy weight-loss by way of hormonal balance and improved function.

The BBB Code of Advertising states that advertisers should be prepared to substantiate any claims before publication, and also states that claims about performance, efficacy, and results should be based on recent and competent scientific data.

Ultimately, Bouari Clinic of Frisco failed to substantiate, modify or discontinue the scientific and results-oriented weight-loss claims that were challenged by BBB in Dallas.

Similar concerns were raised by BBB serving Southern Nevada with the franchisor, Bouari Clinic, LLC, but there was no response.

With so much invested in weight loss each year, both financially and emotionally, BBB recommends doing some research on a company prior to transacting business.   It’s easy to check out a business at www.bbb.org or use the free BBB iPhone app, www.bbb.org/iphone.

One place to start is to weigh the claims made about a weight loss product. As the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” What kinds of claims should you look out for? Beware of promises like these:

  • Lose without diet or exercise!
  • Eat all your favorite foods!
  • Instant weight loss, guaranteed!
  • Just take a pill (or shake or bar)!
  • Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!

Be leery of programs that promise you will lose weight without diet and exercise. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses. For more tips, see “Weighing the Claims in Diet Ads” from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Contact your Better Business Bureau if you find or fall victim to advertising claims that are “too good to be true”.

 

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: 10 Ways To Spot Work At Home Scams

DSEF & BBB: 10 Ways To Spot Work At Home Scams

work_at_home1-150x150By Kelsey Owen

Beware of “jobs” or “business opportunities” that seem to offer high pay for work you can do at home. Often these programs are bogus.

Common scams involve package forwarding, Internet searches or advertising, envelope stuffing, medical billing, discount or coupon programs, rebate processing, distributorships, sales, or the purchase of special equipment or software to start businesses.

Many people lose large sums of money through work at home scams. Some versions of these scams – like package forwarding – might also involve the victim in crimes such as identity theft and handling of stolen merchandise.

Here are 10 tip-offs that the “opportunity” could be a scam:

Big bucks for simple tasks. Watch out if they promise to pay you a lot of money for jobs that don’t seem to require much effort or skill. Sound too good to be true? It might be a scam.

Job offers out of nowhere from strangers. If they offer you a job without getting an application from you first, meeting you, or doing an interview, it’s probably a scam. Don’t hand your personal employment information to such folk (especially your Social Security number!). That could lead to identity theft.

Requests for up-front payments. If someone wants you to make an advance payment to “get in” on the ground floor of a new business opportunity – especially if it’s a big investment, or you don’t have much information about the deal – this is a big red flag. Don’t do it. “Advance fee scams” are very common and they come in many varieties.

They ask you to wire the money. If you wire a payment to somebody, it’s gone forever. Wire transfers of money are a convenient and perfectly legitimate service. But scam artists often ask you to wire payments that they are requesting (especially to destinations in other countries!) because they know you won’t be able to get your money back.

High pressure to do it now. Don’t be in a hurry to accept an unsolicited offer of work, or to make a business investment, particularly if the other party is asking you to spend your money on the deal.

Take your time. If somebody tries to convince you that this is a “limited time” offer and you have to act now, just tell them to forget it. Ignore anybody who pushes you to agree. High pressure is a big sign that something’s wrong.

– See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/06/10-ways-to-spot-work-at-home-scams/#sthash.LQEaYFu7.dpuf

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Identity Theft on Social Media – Are You at Risk?

DSEF & BBB: Identity Theft on Social Media – Are You at Risk?

blue_with_website-225x30022By Katie Burgoyne

Social media is a great outlet to engage with family and friends, but are you sharing too much in the process?  Identity theft can occur with only a few key pieces of your personal information.  And now, courtesy of social media profiles, that information is easier than ever to steal.  For example, an average Facebook profile lists a person’s name, date of birth, and hometown.  So already you have provided a thief with crucial information they need to steal your identity.

The most effective way to protect yourself from identity theft is to make your social profile private.  As well, consider the information your putting on your site. Does your friend of a friend really need to know your home address?  Probably not.  The more personal details you withhold, the safer you will be.

Check out NextAdvisor’s infographic below that presents some alarming statistics about identity theft on social media sites.

na infographic v3 1k 1 Identity Theft on Social Media: Are You at Risk?

To read the full article, visit http://www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2013/04/02/are-we-revealing-too-much-about-ourselves-on-social-media.

 

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Cut Down on Junk Mail and Spam

DSEF & BBB: Cut Down on Junk Mail and Spam

blue_with_website-225x30022

By Kelsey Owen

There are a few things more annoying than junk mail, spam and unsolicited calls and texts messages. Not only are these unwanted communications an annoyance, but they can potentially lead to identity theft.

But how do you stop them? While it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate junk mail, spam text messages and unwanted phone calls, BBB recommends taking the following steps for getting your inboxes and phone lines under control.

Unwanted mail shouldn’t cost you your identity. Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves who can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft. U.S. consumers can “opt-out” of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Canadian residents can visit fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home for more tips.

Stop unwanted direct mail solicitations. To stop most mailings, U.S. consumers can go to dmachoice.org and opt out of mail from members of the Direct Marketing Association. DMA regularly updates its list, but it may take up to six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop. If you live in Canada, register for the Canadian Marketing Association’s Do Not Contact list at the-cma.org.

Has your evening been interrupted by telemarketers? You’re not alone. The U.S. government’s National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls you get at home. To register your phone number or to get information about the registry, visit donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number. Canadian residents can visitlnnte-dncl.gc.ca for opt-out information.

Are you receiving spam text messages? First and foremost, don’t respond. Responding to the text message only confirms a working number and opens the door for more messages. If your number is already on the Do Not Call Registry and you’re still receiving messages and phone calls, file a complaint with the FCC or the Canadian Anti–Fraud Centre and consider PrivacyStar. BBB National Partners AT&T and Verizon have partnered with PrivacyStar to give you back control of your smartphone. The smartphone application, available in the U.S. for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, lets you block unwanted numbers, look up unknown numbers, and file a complaint with the FTC.

– See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/06/cut-down-on-junk-mail-and-spam/#sthash.tyeG39En.dpuf

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Do Your Homework Before Signing Up For Work-At-Home

DSEF & BBB: Do Your Homework Before Signing Up For Work-At-Home

blue_with_website-225x30022By Charles Wood

The ability to work from home is an attractive proposition, especially when a company promises high income for little effort. But Better Business Bureau advises consumers to be careful about accepting these offers.

BBB received over 1,800 complaints about work-at-home businesses in 2012. The majority of consumer complaints alleged companies required them to pay up front for work-at-home opportunities and were promised income that never materialized.

Work-at-home schemes have been around for a long time. Traditional schemes such as envelope-stuffing are still around. A consumer recently forwarded to BBB a pay-upfront offer from Preston Lord Enterprises aka Maxwell Gates Enterprises, which was sued in 2011 by the New Jersey Attorney General. The lawsuit was part of “Operation Empty Promises,” a nationwide crackdown against work-at-home scams.

Digital age work-at-home scams are now commonly reported by consumers who respond to offers found on the Web or receive offers after signing up on job-hunting sites.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations warns that involvement in work-at-home schemes can make a consumer vulnerable to identity theft or unknowing involvement in criminal activity. The FBI breaks work-at-home scams down into the following basic categories:

• Advance-fee. Consumers are asked to invest money up front to pay for inventory, set-up or training materials. When the materials arrive and turn out to be worthless, the consumer is stuck with the bill.

• Counterfeit check “mystery shopper.” The consumer is sent a check and asked to deposit the funds, withdraw money to shop in local stores and wire part of the money to the employer, keeping a percentage. When the check turns out to be bogus, the consumer is left on the hook for the full amount.

• Pyramid schemes. The consumer is hired as a distributor and must pay large amounts for promotional materials and products such as pamphlets with little value. The consumer is promised income from recruiting more distributors. When the scheme falls apart, the only ones to make money are those who started the pyramid.

• International go-between. Criminals, often located overseas, sometimes involve unknowing victims to help them steal, launder money and remain anonymous. A criminal may offer to hire the consumer as a U.S.-based agent to receive and re-ship checks, merchandise and offers to other potential victims.

Austin-area resident Carolyn Reininger was excited when she was contacted after signing up online for work-at-home opportunities. It wasn’t long before her excitement turned to frustration and disappointment. The company offered to help her start a small credit-card processing business—for a fee.

Reininger paid $5,495 and was told the company would get her started by developing a list of businesses that needed third-party credit card processing. “They were supposed to work your leads,” she said. “They were going to work them and then give you the first 1,000 leads. They would get it started, help get your company established. The leads would help you contact companies that wanted this service.”

After Reininger noticed the company no longer seemed to be gathering leads, she began to call with questions and either got no response, or was encouraged to spend more money.
Reininger said she got a call from someone she said was touted as an expert who told her he could make anyone into a millionaire. “He wanted me to spend more money. I didn’t want to. He got kind of belligerent and then I never heard from them again.”

Perry Bird of Round Rock paid over $2,000 for a website advertising diet and nutrition products. He was told he would receive money for advertising based on traffic to the site. He said the income did not materialize and the company would not honor a promise to refund his money if he cancelled within 30 days.

Bird said after he bought the website, he could not get through to anyone with the company. “At first they wouldn’t take my calls,” he said. “Now they won’t answer the phone at all. They got $2,250 from me. I’m on a fixed income on Social Security Disability.”
Bird said after he sent his second payment via bank draft, he had second thoughts and the next day sent certified letters to two Phoenix, Arizona addresses saying he wanted to cancel. The letters were not accepted. “They said I could cancel within three days,” he said.

Before signing up for any work-at-home opportunity, BBB advises job hunters to:

 Start with trust. Check out any company at bbb.org to view their BBB Business Review free of charge. There you will find the company’s history of complaints and contact information. For a list of accredited businesses, go to checkbbb.org.

• Be skeptical. Beware of any offer that guarantees a lot of money for little effort and no experience. Thoroughly read the website’s terms and conditions, keeping in mind that a free trial could cost you in the end.

• Don’t be fooled by affiliation claims. Be wary of work-at-home offers that use logos from Google, Twitter or other popular online sites. Just because Google is in the name doesn’t mean the business is affiliated with Google.

• Check the domain. Research the website with Whois.net or a similar site for determining domain name ownership. Be cautious if the site is anonymous or individually registered.

• Beware of unexpected offers. If you receive a job offer without filling out an application, meeting with the business or being interviewed, it is probably a scam.

• Don’t pay up front. Being asked to make an advance payment to get on the ground floor of a big opportunity is a red flag, especially if it is a large payment or the company doesn’t provide much information about the deal. Handing your Social Security number or other personal information to suspicious sources could lead to identity theft.

• Don’t wire money. Being asked to wire money is a red flag. Scam artists often ask you to wire payments because they know you won’t be able to get the money back.

 

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Navigating New Technology – Why is This Model Better Than That One?

DSEF & BBB: Navigating New Technology – Why is This Model Better Than That One?

blue_with_website-225x30022By Howard Schwartz

I bit the bullet a few weeks ago and went shopping for a tablet. I decided my smart phone was fine for many purposes, but I was finally able to justify getting a tablet to watch videos and read articles without torturing my eyes.  The print seems to get finer as I grow older.  I don’t need my technology to constantly remind me about that.

Reading consumer reviews about the different makes and models only served to confuse me.

Online reviews were numerous but not very specific.  Customer reviews were based largely on brand preference and price – not performance.

Just when I thought I knew what I wanted, I went to a retailer to check it out, I was told “That model isn’t as good as the others.”

As I continued my research, it seemed that I was getting closer to finding the best device at the right price when tech-smart employees told me “I personally prefer the XYZ with the 10 inch screen.”  I figured I could make a decision with a few more visits to stores for the recommendations of employees who use these devices.

I have been working with computers since 1995, and realize the learning curve is constantly evolving.  However, I only started to understand which model and brand would be appropriate for me once I asked an obvious question I neglected to ask earlier: “Why do you prefer this particular device?”

The answers were revealing.   One clerk said his choice was because of brand loyalty.  Another said his store had a great price on a particular model and that’s what drove his decision.  The last one I asked showed me the difference between my two top choices and explained that one of them had a lot of storage space, but the other model’s screen was less jerky and the model was faster than the others.  He showed me and I agreed.

It’s a lot easier to choose a dessert in a restaurant.  If you ask a waiter or waitress which is their favorite, one might recommend the peanut butter cupcake because they love peanut butter.  Another might steer you towards the chocolate cake because of their love of chocolate.  However, when we as consumers tread on unfamiliar territory, it is important to understand the details of why a product or service is better, and in the case of home improvements, why one design is different than the others, and why it is best choice.

 

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Be Cool. Know About the “3 Day Cooling Off Rule”

DSEF & BBB: Be Cool. Know About the “3 Day Cooling Off Rule”

blue_with_website-225x30022By Myriam Cruz

One of the questions we often hear at BBB is how to cancel the purchase of a product or service. While there are various reasons for wanting to cancel, many consumers feel they are pressured into making a purchase or signing a contract. They often feel they don’t have all the necessary information to make an educated decision, hence the feeling of buyer’s remorse. However, the desire to cancel a purchase seems to be most often on sales made at a consumer’s home or at a location other than the company’s normal place of business. For purchases such as these, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines for consumers and businesses.

What Consumers Should Know

The FTC’s Cooling – Off Rule gives consumers three days to cancel purchases of $25 or more conducted at a buyer’s home – even if the salesperson is invited to make a presentation at the home, workplace or dormitory, or at facilities rented by seller on a temporary or short-term basis, such as convention centers, fairgrounds, and/or restaurants. The right to cancel for a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale and consumers do not have to give a reason for cancelling. However, there are exceptions.

Company’s Responsibility

The salesperson must tell consumers about their cancellation rights at time of sale and provide two copies of the cancellation form, along with a copy of the contract or receipt. The contract should be dated, show the name and address of the seller, and explain the right to cancel in the same language used in the sales presentation.

How to Cancel

To cancel, consumers need to sign and date a copy of the cancellation form – or a letter – and mail it to the address given for cancellation, making sure it is postmarked before midnight of the third business day after the contract date.

Upon cancellation, the seller has 10 days to:

·        Cancel and return any promissory note or negotiable instrument signed;

·        Refund all money and tell whether any product will be picked up; and

·        Return any trade-in

Within 20 days, the seller must either pick up any items left with the consumer or reimburse the consumer for mailing expenses if they agree to send back the items.

If consumers don’t make the items available to the seller and return them in good condition, they remain obligated under contract.

Handling Problems

Complaints regarding the Cooling Off Rule can be submitted online to the FTC atwww.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

When have you experienced buyer’s remorse? What service have you had trouble cancelling?

 

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Facebook Page Owners – Beware of New Phishing Scam

DSEF & BBB: Facebook Page Owners – Beware of New Phishing Scam

By Caitlin Vancas

blue_with_website-225x30022If you’re the owner or manager of a company or organization’s Facebook Page, you may be the target of a new phishing scam. Phishing emails are being sent by scammers alleging to be from “Facebook Security.”

This phishing scam attempts to trick Page owners into initiating a “Fan Page Verification Program.” Users are asked to share their Facebook Page’s URL, login credentials and create a 10-digit number as a “Transferring Code.” See a screenshot of this scam.

After providing the requested information, the scammer has been given the ability to post spam and malicious links to your Page followers. Why are Facebook Page owners being targeted? Pages usually have more followers than private users AND fans of the Page are more likely to click on posted links, trusting the source.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information.