Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2010
How many times have you seen or heard it? “Call now for a free subscription.” “Call now for a free list.” “Apply online now for a free directory.” These types of ads are all over the radio and television. But, while they are saying the word “free,” often times what they really mean is, “give me your credit card so I can charge you $1.95 for shipping and handling and then charge you $39.99 per month, every month, after the first 30-days.”
These so called “free” deals attract thousands of consumers per month, many of whom never fully realize what they are truly getting themselves into until they check their credit card statement. And even then, it may be too late. Some companies charge very high cancelation fees if the product or service is not cancelled within the 30-day, “free” trial run.
Always be sure to check, double check and recheck with a company representative if you inquire about a “free” offer. Ask how long the free offer lasts, ask if you will ever be charged money for any services and always question why a company wants your credit card number for an offer that is supposed to be “free.”
Don’t feel pressured and don’t let the representative on the phone talk you into something or intimidate you into purchasing something you are not comfortable with. You can always hang up.
When you cancel, make sure you cancel. If you call the business, the job of the company representative you will speak to is to retain your order. He or she will try to make you think you are making a mistake by cancelling. Have a game plan and stick to it. Also be sure to get the name of the person you are speaking to and any identifying company number or transaction number in regards to your cancellation, in case of a dispute.
Companies need to make money in order to operate; they don’t do this by giving away their products and services for free for forever. When in doubt contact the BBB and find out information about the business.
Posted Monday, August 23, 2010
Many individuals in these economic times are struggling with wanting to financially support charitable causes and organizations but due to financial constraints are not able to give accordingly but that shouldn’t discourage people from still giving to charitable organizations. While donations are the lifeline of most charitable organizations, many organizations say they need volunteer support just as much as financial support. There are many ways to donate and volunteer your time and talents to your favorite organizations. You can start by contacting the organization and ask are there volunteer opportunities such as office work (filing, answering phones, etc.), special events that need staffing, stuffing envelopes. These support responsibilities, while not the most glamorous jobs, are the lifeline of organizations that keep the organization functioning and able to provide additional services. Support of an organization goes deeper that the pocketbook.
Posted Friday, August 20, 2010
Indianapolis, IN – College students have enough to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social life — fighting fraud often doesn't make the list of priorities. Because college students are so susceptible to identity theft, the Better Business Bureau recommends they take seven simple steps to protect themselves on campus.
According to the 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 11 million people became victims of identity theft in 2009. Young adults ages 18-24 took the longest to detect identity theft — 132 days on average — when compared to other age groups. Subsequently, the average cost ($1,156) was roughly five times more than the amount lost by other age groups.
"Identity thieves don't care if you're a struggling student and don't have a penny to your name — sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record," said Bill Thomas, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau. "Young adults that establish good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud are laying a path that will help create a healthy financial road for the rest of their lives."
The BBB recommends college-bound students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:
1. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as the parents' home or a P.O. Box.
2. Important documents should be stored under lock and key, such as in a filing cabinet. This includes a social security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
3. Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Also, just say no if your friend wants you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
4. Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer's operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
5. Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you'll suffer in the long run.
6. When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with the BBB online. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm they are legitimate.
7. Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit us online at www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-finance.
Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2010
“Identity theft,” the term hardly goes a day without being said or heard. It is one of the major problems in each the private, social and business world. Identity theft can claim you as its next victim in a multitude of ways including: pre-approved credit card offers, bill stubs, bank statements, lost or stolen mail, a lost or stolen wallet or purse, hacking into your computer, inadvertently entering personal information online and being scammed any number of ways.
The BBB recommends the following to help cut the risk of falling victim of identity theft:
1. Only carry cards that you need and be very cautious who you trust with your personal information.
2. Invest in a shredding machine that can shred pre-approved credit card offers, old bank statements and all other documents you no longer need but contain personal information.
3. Use unique passwords and passwords that are unidentifiable based on your username.
4. Memorize as many personal identification numbers as you can, if you have to write them down do so in a fashion in which they are not identifiable, such as, as a phone number or as an IP address.
5. Do not hand out your social security number without asking “why?” first and make sure the “why” is a legitimate reason.
6. Do not give personal information over the phone, it is nearly impossible to unequivocally know who you are speaking to.
7. View your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies at least once every year and pay particular attention to anything out of the ordinary or that you do not understand, as it could be a type of fraud.
The harder you make it for thieves to steal your identity the more likely they will give up and move onto somebody else. So, enough with identify theft!
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This is an old scam dating back to around 1996, but it is good to be reminded of it once in awhile. The area code 809 is in the Dominican Republic and has been used as a scam to run up unnaturally high phone bills. Some reports indicate that calling an 809 number can cost up-to thousands of dollars per minute. The scam originates with a phone call from an 809 phone number in which a person requests a call back about a prize, an illness or a family member in trouble. When the victim returns the call they can be charged an absorbent amount of money to either listen to a long recording or to speak with the scammers themselves. Like I said this is a dated scam, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it every once in awhile.
See the link below for more information from AT&T.
Posted Thursday, August 12, 2010
The housing market has been a newsworthy topic for quite some time now. Recently, I was reading an article by Tom Spalding at IndyStar.com and learned that the State is offering help to Hoosiers facing foreclosure.
In the article Spalding states, “Indiana’s foreclosure rate of 4.51 percent has fallen lower than the national average, and state officials want to continue keeping Hoosiers in their homes.”
On September 1st a free event will be held at National Guard Armories in eight (8) cities across the state: Indianapolis, Hammond, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Columbus, Evansville, Terre Haute and Richmond. Hoosiers who are struggling and facing possible foreclosure can attend this free event and meet with a trained foreclosure prevention counselor. The foreclosure prevention counselor can help the borrower obtain and prepare the proper paperwork and look at other alternatives to foreclosure.
The event in Indianapolis will be from 3 to 8 p.m. on September 1st at 3612 W. Minnesota Street.
The information in this blog is from Tom Spalding’s article “State to offer help to Hoosiers facing foreclosure” which was posted on August 10, 2010. To read the full article please visit http://www.indystar.com/article/20100810/BUSINESS/100810007/State-to-offer-help-to-Hoosiers-facing-foreclosure.
Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2010
How many of you are sick and tired of seeing a deal in an advertisement and thinking to yourself, “Okay, where is the catch?” The advertising industry should not be that way, but unfortunately we live in a world where even ads that claim, “NO STRINGS ATTACHED!” often come with not only strings but weights and chains. The only way the advertising industry will change is if it is forced to change….now how can we (as consumers) force the advertising industry to change? We cannot simply boycott products but we can voice our opinions and show advertisers that we do not appreciate having to be fooled into buying products. First, whenever possible buy a product from a straightforward advertisement and inform the business why you are purchasing from them. Second, when you see a misleading or false advertisement, REPORT IT to firstname.lastname@example.org. Advertising is supposed to inform consumers about a product, service and/or business and allow for a consumer to make an informed and impartial purchasing decision…..let’s not allow advertisers continue to mislead us all!
Posted Friday, August 06, 2010
The Indiana State Fair officially kicks off today and continues for the next 17 days. The BBB has a booth in the exhibition hall, booth number 133. In our booth this year we have created an interactive environment to help educate businesses and consumers on how to utilize bbb.org.
We have a computer set up for fair go-er’s use; visitors to our booth can learn how to find local businesses, find BBB accredited businesses, find Type of Business listings for Central Indiana businesses and learn how to read and use BBB reports. In addition we have information on what “accreditation” means and why it is important along with a few goodies to take home with you.
So in between concerts, rides, events and the fair eating schedule, Come over and see us. We’d love to speak with you.
Posted Thursday, August 05, 2010
With the economy crunch, some area businesses are focused on their financial status. Local accredited businesses have contacted the BBB regarding grant assistance companies. These grant assistant companies state they can help a business with their financials. The BBB strongly suggest you use caution. Grants are not as easy as 1-2-3. Organizations do not usually give out grants for personal debt consolidation or to pay for other personal needs. Grants are usually given only to serve a social good, such as bringing jobs to an area, training under-employed youth, preserving local history, etc. One company that we received an inquiry on is US Financial dba My Fundling Consultants/Grant Consultants. To view this company report click here.
Posted Wednesday, August 04, 2010
The IRS recently published a list of 6,951 Indiana charities that must file tax returns by Oct. 15, 2010 to avoid losing their tax-exempt status.
Many of the organizations on the list are small, community-based organizations, including many service clubs, foundations and school-based groups. The list includes organizations that have not filed returns for the last three years, though other organizations not on the list may also be at risk. But for those charities that are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status for failure to file a notice or return, the IRS is offering a “One-Time Filing Relief” which allows small charities extra time to file returns.
The IRS will automatically revoke the tax-exempt status of charities that do not file a return by Oct. 15, 2010 and will publish a list of those organizations in early 2011. Donors who make a donation to those revoked organizations after the list is published may not deduct those contributions on their tax returns.
Many of the charities on this list are those that were not required to file a return prior to a change in the law in 2007 that now requires all non- profit organizations, regardless of size and income to file tax returns.
A list of these at-risk organizations is available from the IRS at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/in.pdf.
In conducting its Charity Review Program, BBB verifies charities are indeed tax-exempt as well as registered to solicit in the state of Indiana. For additional information and advice that charities and donors can trust, start with bbb.org/charity.
Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010
1. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams –Typically, the victim receives a letter in the mail stating they have won a lottery or sweepstakes; it might even claim to be from Publisher’s Clearing House or Reader’s Digest. The letter instructs the victim to deposit an enclosed check and then wire a portion back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. While the funds will initially show up in the bank account, the money will be removed when the bank determines the check is fake. The victim is out whatever they wired back to the scammers—often amounting to thousands of dollars.
· BBB Advice: Never wire money to someone you don’t know. You should never have to send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.
2. Medicare Scams – Navigating the Medicare system isn’t easy and some scammers will look for any opportunity to take advantage of the confusion. Commonly, a scammer will claim to be with Medicare and ask for personal information such as Medicare, Medicaid, social security, credit card or bank account numbers. The victim might be given any number of excuses to provide this information including that an error needs to be fixed, that he or she is part of a survey or eligible to receive free products or can sign up for a new prescription drug plan.
· BBB Advice: Remind your elderly family members that Medicare will never call to ask for sensitive personal financial information. If you suspect fraud contact your local police or the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS.
3. Bereavement Scams – Scammers will often try to take advantage of the increased vulnerability of senior citizens who have recently lost a loved one, such as a spouse. In one recent example, a mother and daughter team in Ohio would find targets by scouring the obituaries. They would then call the widow or widower and claim that their spouse had outstanding debts that needed to be paid immediately. Victims would then provide a blank check or credit card.
· BBB Advice: Offer help to elderly family members if they have recently lost a loved one and are inexperienced in managing finances. If you are uncertain about owing a debt when collectors call, ask for written confirmation.
4. Deceptive Professionals – While many scams targeting senior citizens might not have a face, some scammers will be invited in the front door including technicians, contractors, chimney sweeps, air duct cleaners and other services. Some professionals will lie about the extent of the problem or claim safety issues and then inflate prices for unsuspecting senior customers.
· BBB Advice: Find professionals you can trust by checking out BBB’s directory of Accredited Businesses. Always research a company with BBB before you hand over any money and report any deceptive services to your BBB, local law enforcement and the state Attorney General.
5. Investment and Work at Home Opportunities - Promises of easy money often target older adults because they may be looking to supplement their income. The pitch might come in the form of an investment opportunity that promises big returns, or as a way to make money at home for an upfront cost. Regardless of the specifics, the victim is offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes.
· BBB Advice: Always research any work at home opportunity with BBB. Beware of investment or money-making offers that seem too good to be true or use high pressure sales tactics to get you to sign up immediately.
For more advice on avoiding scams and fraud visit: www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-scams/
Posted Monday, August 02, 2010
Air duct cleaning companies offer a valuable service to consumers. Air duct cleaners can help your home air systems run more efficiently and ultimately save you money on electric bills as well as create a healthier atmosphere for everyone in the home. Consumers have to watch out, however, for unscrupulous air duct cleaning companies that may practice a bait-n-switch advertising tactic, if you allow them.
Be on the lookout for air duct cleaning companies that while or after completing an advertised cleaning special insist your home is not safe because of an extreme mold problem. Although sometimes this may be true, other times this may be a ploy to charge hundreds and even thousands of extra dollars in service fees.
Never make the decision on the spot to allow the company to go ahead and fix the mold problem, instead seek a second opinion from a separate company and contact the BBB to find a business you can trust.
Other Air Duct Cleaning Tips Include:
- Check the Company Out With BBB. Before setting up a visit, check the company out with your Better Business Bureau first. Ideally, the business will be Accredited by BBB or at least have a good rating. Pay close attention to the name of the business you’re researching because unscrupulous outfits often choose a name that is similar to an existing business that has a solid reputation. To check out a business’s Reliability Report or locate a BBB Accredited duct cleaner visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/.
- Look for the Fine Print. Ads and contracts may contain fine print which the business might think will absolve them from honoring their advertised price. Always ask plenty of questions and get to the bottom line of what it’s going to cost you, before you sign on the dotted line.
- Get a Second Opinion. If the duct cleaner discovers that you have a mold problem, get a second opinion. Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars so you’ll want expert advice on how to take care of it.
- File a Complaint with BBB. If you believe you’ve been misled by a business, file a complaint with your BBB online at www.bbb.org/us/file-complaint. Even if BBB isn’t able to resolve the issue for you, the complaint can serve as a warning to other consumers about the business.