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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana
BBB Tips You Can Trust for the Week September 20, 2010
September 23, 2010


BBB TWICE A MONTH TIPS YOU CAN TRUST

Compiled by Zan Deery, Communications/Investigations

For the Week of 9/20/10

zan@spokane.bbb.org 800-356-1007 or 509-455-4200

www.bbb.org

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

TIP NUMBER ONE

IDCSERVCO of CA THREATENS COLLECTIONS FOR UNAUTHORIZED INVOICES FROM PAPER PIRATES

Company Known for Deceptive Tactics

BBB received a call from a regional school district office that has been hit by deceptive telemarketing sales of paper supplies by a company calling itself “Capital Supply Center.” They are now dealing with an unauthorized charge of $600, and collection threats from IDCSERVCO of CA for paper supplies they never authorized. Here’s how it worked:

A regional school district office says they received an invoice for $600 from a company that is not their official paper supplier. A person named “Jesse” had originally contacted their office misrepresenting himself as their official paper supplier, Cascade Copier. Low and behold, Jesse was representing a deceptive telemarketing sales group called Capital Supply Center.
 
Upon refusal to pay the invoice for $600, they then received a call from IDC Servco of CA, which handles collections for Capital Supply Center.   

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW FOR IDCSERVCO of CA
http://www.la.bbb.org/Business-Report/IDCSERVCO-21524

BBB ADVICE
When solicited by telemarketers offering business supplies, we urge extreme caution. Complaints against this type of company generally allege that telemarketers mislead customers in believing they are the regular supplier, misrepresent product offers, ship unauthorized orders, or charge exorbitant fees for supplies. Request that the caller send a catalog or brochure describing the items and its prices. To minimize misunderstandings, designate one employee to whom all calls regarding office supplies must be directed. If unordered merchandise arrives, immediately write to advise the company of your intent to keep the shipment as a free gift unless pick up is arranged within a reasonable amount of time. Send your letter by certified mail to obtain proof of receipt.

If you feel you have been a victim of this deception, we urge you to file formal complaints disputing charges with BBB at: www.bbb.org as well as file a formal complaint with the FTC at: www.ftc.gov over collection issues.

TIP NUMBER TWO

Attn: TRI CITIES AREA
BONNEVILLE POWER HIRES CANVASERS IN FRANKLIN COUNTY

FYI if anyone is approached door-to-door by people representing Franklin County PUD

BBB received this scenario below and wanted people in the Tri City area to know about it:

A resident of Franklin County had two men come up to him while he was putting his granddaughter in the car, told him that they work for Franklin PUD, and asked him if he wanted efficient light bulbs and shower heads installed.  They didn’t offer identification. The reps had a logo on their shirts, but it was not Franklin PUD.  He declined their offer.  They got back into a car and drove off.  Within minutes, they were at his neighbor’s door offering the same thing.

BBB contacted Franklin PUD, and they confirmed that Bonneville Power has hired people to canvas Franklin County PUD Customers (which is all of Franklin County) offering to install more efficient light bulbs and shower heads.  If it is not convenient for them to install these items, you can schedule a time.  They actually have to be the ones to install them. 

BBB ADVICE
These representatives are not PUD employees, but are third-party contractors working on behalf of the PUD and Bonneville Power.

Here is what is posted on the PUD’s website about this activity:

Franklin PUD has contracted with Fluid Market Strategies for implementation of Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) “Simple Steps, Smart Savings” promotion for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and showerheads for Franklin PUD customers.
Please visit:

www.simplestepsnw.com/utility/franklin or call 1-888-553-SIMPLE.

TIP NUMBER THREE

ID THEFT SCAM CALLS MAKING ROUNDS IN AREA

We received a call from a Spokane woman stating that she has been targeted by a possible ID Theft racket attempting to get people in a panic and give personal information as well as fees to an unknown company. The Spokane woman stated that she was targeted by an unknown firm calling her saying she was the victim of ID theft, and that they had rung up over $3,000 on her credit cards.

She believed them. They told her she would have to pay them almost $500 for them to help her stop the ID theft. They would not tell her who they were or give her their info. They said they would call her back with details. The woman promptly contacted BBB and the FTC. To add on to this, the same woman called her back stating she was a “Pat Taylor” from “Solid Security”, but would not give any more information.

BBB ADVICE
The moment someone receives a call that states that your information has been compromised somehow, the natural inclination is to panic. BBB says DON’T until you have at least confirmed and verified that the allegations are correct. Do not go by an unsolicited or cold call, even if the call states that it is your bank. If someone contacts you stating they are your bank, state that you will end the call and contact your financial institution directly for verification that the call is real. Do NOT GIVE OUT OR CONFIRM ANY PERSONAL INFO upon first calls like this. Make certain you are speaking directly with the affected accounts division. We must be very hyper-vigilant in these times, and not believe only what we “hear.” It pays to do your due diligence and speak directly with your official financial groups. If you have compromised any personal info via phone like this, contact your financial institution ASAP or credit merchants, etc. to report it so they can flag your account. Look at statements regularly for questionable activity, and even file a police report if you gave up your Social Security #, etc.

TIP NUMBER FOUR

Better Business Bureau (BBB) Tips for Using Craigslist
Thanks to the St. Paul BBB for these Tips!

In the wake of bizarre and life-threatening transactions initiated through Craigslist nationwide, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising the public to practice caution when using the online service and others like it.

There are certainly deals to be found online, but it’s good for both buyers and sellers to remember they’re usually dealing with people unfamiliar to them. There are risks involved and we feel it’s very important that people take the time to pause and consider both their personal and financial security.

Here are some basic tips from the BBB in regard to using sites like Craigslist:

• Try to deal with local buyers and sellers.
• Never wire funds.
• Use caution when using an escrow service – make sure it’s reputable by checking them out at www.bbb.org.
• Never give out your Social Security or personal financial information.
• Don’t apply for jobs that require a payment.
• Apartment or home rentals should be thoroughly checked out and inspected in person before money is put down.
• Consider the risks involved with selling a high value item yourself and weigh that against any extra profit you might make. Is it worth it?

The following are red flags, signs you’re likely dealing with someone using Craigslist to defraud people:

• The buyer or seller is from another country.
• The buyer or seller will not meet with you and will only communicate via e-mail.
• The buyer overpays and asks you to wire the extra funds back to him/her.

The riskiest part of buying or selling something through Craigslist (or other online e-commerce sites) is the meeting to complete the transaction. Here are some tips to ensure your transaction goes safely and smoothly:

• Set up meetings during daytime hours and in a public place (coffee shop, restaurant).
• Consider bringing a friend or family member with you if you have safety concerns.
• If you’re the seller, consider using an escrow service.
• If you’re buying an item, don’t pay with cash if the item is more than one hundred dollars; pay with a cashier’s check and let the seller know in advance you’re paying with a cashier’s check.
• If the seller insists you come to their home or apartment, tell them you will only meet at a neutral public site.
• Trust your instincts. If you don’t like the direction things are taking, walk away.

As in life, most of the people you deal with when buying or selling household goods on sites like Craigslist are honest. However, there are those who see these sites as an opportunity to commit crimes. The BBB advises everyone who uses websites like these to make sure they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves.

TIP NUMBER FIVE

BBB Gives F Rating to National Growth Funding, Inc. of TX
Grant Writing Company Unresponsive to Customer Disputes

San Antonio, TX – September 21, 2010 – BBB has issued an F rating to National Growth Funding Inc. (NGF) for failure to respond to customer disputes. As a result, the company’s BBB Accreditation was revoked for failure to uphold at least a B rating and meet the BBB Standards of Accreditation.

The San Antonio-based company offers business consulting, grant writing and grant finding services to organizations nationwide. Despite receiving hundreds or thousands of dollars in upfront fees, reports to BBB allege that NGF never delivered on promises that they would secure substantial grants and funding from the government for their customers. Other complaints received by BBB indicate poor workmanship and that NGF has not answered requests for refunds or contract negotiations. 

BBB currently reports receiving eight complaints against NGF in the past year, five of which remain unanswered. On June 16, 2010, BBB contacted NGF to discuss concerns that the disputes were beginning to form a pattern. The company has not yet responded. For more details, visit the company's BBB Business Review here.

Before paying money for assistance in earning government grants, BBB offers the following advice:

•         Start with trust. Always check out a company’s BBB Business Review before giving out any bank account or credit card information. Reports are available for free at www.bbb.org.

•         Be skeptical. Generally speaking, obtaining a grant is a complicated process, requiring documentation and research. The vast majority of grant-making foundations require that applicants meet very specific guidelines and that the funds be used for specific projects supported by the foundation. Be wary of any company promising a quick, easy or guaranteed result.

•         Check free sources first. There is no reason to pay for software or guides when applying for government grants. Free information is available on federal government websites including grants.gov, govbenefits.gov and sba.gov.

SEASONAL TIP FOR THE HALLOWEEN SEASON

BBB Advises Don’t Get Spooked by Ghoul and Goblin Boutiques!

The air is getting cooler. Fall is upon us; the season of festivals, camp fires and trick or treating! It is the time of the year where every kid in America is trying to decide what costume to wear for Halloween. The Halloween Industry Association claims Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the USA. According to the Halloween Online Magazine, the Halloween retail industry brought in $2.5billion in sales and advertising revenue in 2009.

Before you rush out to buy your Lady Gaga look- a- like costume, or Buzz Lightyear gear for your little guy, the BBB suggests you exercise caution. Many Halloween costume stores and websites are seasonal.

Follow these tips so you won’t be haunted even after Halloween is over.

• Location, Location. If you're interested in trying a new online merchant who you’re not familiar with, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check on its reliability with outside organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and consumer agencies.

• Customer Satisfaction Policy. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can’t offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.

• Leave Nothing to Chance. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before making an order. Be clear on the price and any shipping and handling charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant.

• Guard Your Personal Information. Only provide your credit card information number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix https:// . . . in the URL box which lists the website’s web address to be sure that a site you are using is secure.

• Check for Reliability at www.bbb.org Consumers can search for a company by name, phone number and even website.

BBB RECEIVES CALLS FROM REGIONAL CONSUMERS REGARDING 714-697-3204 LEAVING AUTOMATED MESSAGES ABOUT OFFERING LOWER INTEREST RATES FOR CREDIT CARDS

States 'Rachel from Cardholder Services’

BBB encourages people receiving automated calls for lowering interest rates on credit cards to file formal complaints with the FTC. Bottom line:

*Do not give up personal information to a cold call like this, no matter who they call themselves.

*Do not shop for lower credit card rates this way. More than likely, you will be dealing with a group that is not upfront about what they offer. Make sure that ANY business transactions such as these, where financial information is disclosed, is done with a legitimate company that you have done your own research on.

Identity Theft is a Growing Threat; Fight Back with Free Help from BBB and NFCC

Better Business Bureau and National Foundation for Credit Counseling announce 3rd Annual Protect Your Identity Week,
October 17-23, 2010


The Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) are encouraging consumers and small business owners across the country to fight identity theft by taking part in the 3rd Annual Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW), October 17-23.

FULL RELEASE HERE: http://spokane.bbb.org/article/identity-theft-is-a-growing-threat-fight-back-with-free-help-from-bbb-and-nfcc-22365 

LATEST LOTTERY SCAM

(If you are American and Someone Calls to Say You've Won a Candian Lottery, It's Illegal to play foreign lotteries! Don't Believe it!)

Edmonton, AB (September 21, 2010) BBB of Central and Northern Alberta has been receiving calls from seniors all over who have been recently targeted with a lottery scam. They are being asked to send a $25.00 processing fee and they will win $1-2 million.

BBB of Central and Northern Alberta notes: “The Province of Alberta offers a series of lotteries to its residents, as does the country. These are all managed locally by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation and their website has all of the current lotteries, available in Alberta.”
There are also several well known charities and hospital groups that run annual lotteries to raise funds. These lotteries are licensed by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). The AGLC and the “Alberta Lottery Fund & Prize America”, which doesn’t exist, are often named in lottery scams. The Alberta Lottery Fund does exist, but it only provides financial support to community-based organizations from provincial gaming revenue.

BBB offers the following tips to watch out for when deciding on the purchase of lottery tickets:

• Legitimate lotteries will not call you on the phone, or send you an email, asking you to send money.
• Never give out your credit card numbers over the phone, or Internet, to a business promising lottery jackpots.
• Never send cash to an unfamiliar or foreign business.
• Never accept a collect phone call from someone claiming to be a lottery official. Real lotteries do not call collect.
• Never believe a letter, email or phone call from someone who offers you a guarantee of winning a prize. Real lotteries do not guarantee you will win a prize.

Check out any suspicious lottery offer with BBB. You can also find information about lottery scams and report them to PhoneBusters (The Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre). Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

WA L&I Investigating Multiple Suspicious Driveway Paving Jobs in Spokane area, Pavers Moving Around State

TUMWATER – The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is warning homeowners about a suspicious asphalt paving company operating in Eastern Washington agricultural communities and leaving unhappy homeowners in its wake.

L&I investigators believe the suspicious paving jobs started in the St. John area, but the operation is on the move to other parts of Washington.
A company operating as “Asphalt Driveways” has been posting signs and flyers in neighborhoods around the state, directing customers to a toll-free 866 phone number.

L&I investigators have issued 35 infractions to Asphalt Driveways, but have been unable to locate any representatives from the company.

These types of traveling paving operations surface every summer. Representatives typically approach homeowners with an offer to pave a driveway for a great low price because they claim to have asphalt materials left over from another nearby job.

“L&I often doesn’t hear complaints about the workmanship until after winter, when the asphalt crumbles and falls apart from freezing temperatures,”  said Rich Ervin, L&I’s program manager for contractor registration. “In some cases, investigators see weeds coming up through the asphalt, or incorrect drainage that causes flooding.”

By the time problems appear, the crew has moved on to a different area or another state.

L&I recommends these 10 tips for hiring the best contractor to avoid getting burned by a shady contractor.

BBB REPORTS QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITY REGARDING DENT REPAIR GROUP TARGETING PEOPLE IN PARKING LOTS IN REGION

It has been brought to BBB’s attention that there is a group going about the region posing as a dent repair business in parking lots of stores such as Walmart and Target. Here’s how they operate:

A guy comes up to people in the parking lot and offers to fix dents/dings in cars. He covers area with paint and foil so it looks fixed then takes the money, and when you remove it after the time suggested by the dent repair person, is not fixed. He goes by name of "Joe Franks" with nephew "Eric Franks."

This person currently drives a big red truck with Montana plates. The people mentioned above state that they work for Dent Tech Express and his phone number is 425-346-9852- which is a number that doesn’t always answer properly as a business. When asked for money back, he will not give it.

BBB ADVICE
If you encounter a questionable business pitch in a parking lot of a company, promptly report the activities to store security and/or management ASAP so they can possibly report it to the police. Also, we strongly urge you to exercise caution regarding such pitches made without doing your research or homework first. You will most likely get what you paid for.

There are various negative posts about this number online at: http://www.numberinvestigator.com/425346 showing that this group has definitely made the rounds in our region attempting to gain more unsusceptible takers.

Know that if you have work done “on the spot” like this without a guarantee or warranty given to you, and without the assurance that you are dealing with a legitimate and skilled business, you are 100% risk of what type of job it will end up being.

BBB HAS IFF SERVICE NET of FL ON ITS RADAR:
Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction Service Has F Rating

A resident of Battle Ground, WA reported to BBB that he received a call from “IFF Service Net” promising to lower his credit card debt. The company said they were located in Panama. Their phone number is 866-942-1617. Mr. Smith had an understanding that they could clear the outstanding balance on his MC. What they did was charge him a “one-time fee” of $895, plus a transfer fee, then sent him a Good Sam’s club card with a zero interest rate. Mr. Smith talked to an “Andrew” a “Joe Davis” and a “Michael Watson.”

Our good resident contacted Good Sam’s and Good Sam’s says this company has no authority to sell their cards, and the consumer could have gotten their card directly from them for free.

The consumer’s credit card company will not reverse the charges, saying that he did receive a product. Our regional resident says at no time did the company that called him make it clear that they were just sending him a piece of plastic, and would charge him the rate they did on his credit card.

IBBB contacted the 866# given, and it ends up being the number for an F rated “credit repair” company in Florida called Infinity Financial Freedom with the following BBB report:
http://www.bbb.org/central-florida/business-reviews/credit-repair-services-advance-fee/infinity-financial-freedom-in-winter-park-fl-213450989

BBB ADVICE
We urge you to file formal complaints with BBB about such activities, as well as with your state Attorney General’s Office. Be wary of anybody who cold calls you offering reduced credit card rates without doing some homework first and knowing exactly the KIND of company you are dealing with. These types of questionable and captive offers abound right now, and most of them are not forthright pitches about what, exactly, they are offering you. PROTECT you credit information, and don’t just give your credit card info to an unknown or you are at 100% risk regarding what might happen with that info.

BUSINESS BUZZ FROM BBB

MT DEPT. OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIES

Department of Labor and Industry Announces State’s First Formally Recognized Pre-apprenticeship Training Program

(Billings, MT) Today the Apprenticeship and Training Program of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry along with, Passages Culinary Arts Program, and the Department of Corrections announced the State's first formally recognized Pre-apprenticeship and Training program.

The newly established Culinary Arts pre-apprenticeship program is designed to provide skills training in the culinary arts to 10 to 15 inmates currently working in the Passages facility preparing 1,000 meals daily.  "This training program will give participants the skills to re-enter society with the ability to secure meaningful employment in a wide array of venues within the Culinary Arts Field," said Culinary Arts Program Manager, Carlee Johnson.

The pre-apprenticeship program has specific requirements which must be met in order for its participants to receive a completion certification: they must accrue a minimum of 2,000 hours of hands-on-training in multiple experience areas of the industry and complete 280 hours of related coursework study related to the occupation.   "The major advantage of this partnership is that we are utilizing existing training in culinary arts for the pre-apprenticeship program," said Apprenticeship and Training State Director Mark Maki.

The women must be within 24 months of being eligible for parole, with the ideal candidate within 18 months of release.  Program enrollees receiving classroom instruction, in-house food service experience, work release in the community, job placement assistance, and must complete a stay at a prerelease center during the last six months of placement.

The intent of the program is to provide career opportunities and possible transferable credits for those wishing to further their skills training through various registered apprenticeship training programs or a vocational training facility when the re-enter the world of work.

Passages is a community corrections program located in Billings that includes a prerelease center, alcohol and drug treatment program, and an assessment and sanction program. 

For more information on apprenticeship and training you can visit the programs website at http://exploreapprenticeship.mt.gov or by calling 406-444-3998.
                                               
WA Insurance Commissioner’s Office

Health Insurance Coverage: Upcoming change in WA law will help small business people find health coverage


An upcoming change in Washington state law will soon make it easier for self-employed people to get health insurance coverage.

The change involves small-group coverage, which under state law in recent years has been defined as businesses of 2 to 50 employees.

Small-group coverage generally does not require applicants to first pass a health screening.

One-person businesses, however, have had to seek coverage in the individual insurance market, where health screening is the norm.

Coverage can be hard to find, particularly for people with pre-existing health problems.

By Oct. 1, 2010, state law will consider 1 person a “group” for insurance purposes. This means that sole proprietors, for example, will now be able to apply for group coverage.

The law includes provisions to ensure that the business is bona fide.

Depending on the way the business is set up, applicants may have to:

• show that the business has been their employer for at least the past 12 months,
• and show that at least 75 percent of their income has come from the business or trade. (For agricultural businesses, this requirement is 51 percent.)

The bill changing the law was state Senate Bill 6538. Similar provisions are included in the federal health reform legislation approved by Congress this spring, but those don’t take effect until 2014.

People interested in getting quotes or applying for this coverage should talk to an insurance agent or broker.

People needing help finding health insurance can also call the office of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler at 1-800-562-6900.

BUSINESS LOAN ADVICE FROM SBA

Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA has developed many small business loan and assistance programs as well as a network of resources and partnerships with other public and private organizations that offer special outreach efforts and initiatives to aid and inform small businesses. The SBA's programs and services assist in almost every aspect of starting a business - from developing a business plan to obtaining financing and marketing products. Two SBA District offices cover Idaho, one in Boise serving southern Idaho and one in Spokane serving north Idaho.  More information can be found at www.sba.gov/id and www.sba.gov/wa or phone 208-334-9004, ext 336.

Women's Business Center: The Women's Business Center is designed to assist women who are starting or already own a business and need additional skills, training, or mentoring. Specific services include: One-on-one counseling sessions; Business training; Marketing; Government procurement; Management; Internet; Web site design; Loan package assistance; Home-based business development; Entrepreneurial mentoring; and support groups. More information can be found at http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/onlinewbc/

New Audit Video Series Helps Small Business Taxpayers Understand the Process
http://www.irsvideos.gov/audit/

The Internal Revenue Service has launched a new online video series, Your Guide to an IRS Audit, to help small business taxpayers and their tax preparers better understand the IRS audit process.  The series follows three hypothetical taxpayers through the steps of an audit, from notification to closing. The series describes how best to prepare for an audit and outlines the types of audits as well as the different steps involved in each type. It also provides answers to common questions. It consists of ten stand-alone lessons that can be viewed in any sequence.  “Your Guide to an IRS Audit,” was created by experienced IRS auditors with input from national tax practitioner groups and the National Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, promoting an atmosphere of mutual cooperation among auditors, taxpayers and their representatives. 

The audit Web page on IRS.gov also contains comprehensive information about the audit process, addressing major items of concern about the audit process and answers to frequently asked questions. Other educational products to help small business owners learn about their federal tax rights and responsibilities, such as the Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop, are also online at the IRS Video Portal.

Pre Order the Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed
http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=101169,00.html
The 2011 Tax Calendar is available for pre-order. If you order now, the English version of the 2011 Tax Calendar will be shipped by early November. The Tax Calendar for Small Businesses and Self-Employed (Pub 1518, Catalog Number 12350Z) is a 12-month wall calendar. It is filled with useful information on general business taxes, IRS and SSA customer assistance, electronic filing and paying options, retirement plans, business publications and forms, and common tax filing dates. Each page highlights different tax issues and tips that may be relevant to small business owners with room on each month to add notes, state tax dates, or business appointments. Copies can be ordered online or from the IRS by calling (800) 829-3676.

RECENT GOVERNMENT ACTIONS AND ORDERS

WA STATE SECURITIES DIVISION Full Order Searches Available here:
http://dfi.wa.gov/sd/orders/orders2010.htm

Leslie Collins
S-09-112-09-CO02 – Consent Order 

On September 9, 2010, the Securities Division entered a Consent Order, S-09-112-09-CO02 with Leslie Collins.  The Securities Division had previously entered a Statement of Charges and Notice of Enter Order to Cease and Desist; and to Impose Fines against James H. Liddell and Collins on October 5, 2009.  The Statement of Charges alleged that beginning in 2005 Liddell and Collins, via Payright Merchant Services-Seattle, raised over $3,750,000 through the sale of promissory notes and loan agreements to as least seven Washington residents and at least one Oregon resident in violation of the Washington State Securities Act.  Collins neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to cease and desist from violating the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act.  Collins waived her right to hearing and to a judicial review of this matter.

James H. Liddell
S-09-112-09-CO01 – Consent Order 

On September 9, 2010, the Securities Division entered a Consent Order, S-09-112-09-CO01 with James H. Liddell.  The Securities Division had previously entered a Statement of Charges and Notice of Enter Order to Cease and Desist; and to Impose Fines against Liddell and Leslie Collins on October 5, 2009.  The Statement of Charges alleged that beginning in 2005 Liddell and Collins, via Payright Merchant Services-Seattle, raised over $3,750,000 through the sale of promissory notes and loan agreements to as least seven Washington residents and at least one Oregon resident in violation of the Washington State Securities Act.  Liddell neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to cease and desist from violating the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act.  Additionally, Liddell and will not make application for, nor be granted, a broker-dealer, securities sales person, investment adviser and/or investment adviser representative license in Washington.  Liddell waived his right to hearing and to a judicial review of this matter.
 
Alert from WA Dept. of Financial Institutions 

Considering Selling Life Settlement Investments?

The Washington State Securities Division has received a number of inquiries about whether persons who are not licensed as securities salespersons or broker-dealers may sell investments in life settlements to their customers.

This alert explains how investments in life settlements may be securities and discusses the possible consequences of selling such investments.

FULL STORY HERE
http://www.dfi.wa.gov/sd/life-settlements-faq.htm

ATTORNEY GENERAL ORDERS

Idaho and 32 Other States (including WA State) Join in new Agreement with Publishers Clearing House


(Boise) - Attorney General Lawrence Wasden joined 32 states and the District of Columbia in filing a supplemental consent judgment with sweepstakes company Publishers Clearing House of Port Washington, New York.  The agreement, filed in Ada County court today, modifies the terms of a prior judgment filed in 2000.

Previous settlements with Publishers Clearing House included terms aimed at resolving the states’ allegations that the company engaged in deceptive marketing practices by mailing promotional materials designed to mislead consumers into believing that purchases would increase their odds of winning.

The states’ recent investigation raised concerns that Publishers Clearing House was not fully complying with the prior agreement and that consumers could still be confused by the nature and language of some of the company’s sweepstakes promotional mailings.

The new agreement contains stronger provisions to ensure that consumers are not further misled or confused by the company’s sweepstakes promotions, including greatly increased consumer surveys to ensure that consumers understand that purchasing does not increase their chances of winning a sweepstakes prize. 

In addition, the company agreed to pay $3,500,000 to cover the cost of the states’ investigation.  Idaho’s share of this settlement is $40,000.

Full ID release here: http://www2.state.id.us/ag/newsrel/2010/nr_sept092010.htm

Full WA Release here:
http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?id=26404

Washington Attorney General Zooms in on LegalZoom’s Claims
DIY legal forms aren’t a substitute for an attorney

SEATTLE – If you’ve watched cable TV, you’ve likely seen celebrity attorney Robert Shapiro tout his company, LegalZoom, as a way to start businesses, patent inventions and create wills. “We put the law on your side,” he says.

But the Washington Attorney General’s Office wants to be sure consumers aren’t misled by LegalZoom’s cost-saving claims.

Under a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office, LegalZoom can’t compare its costs to attorneys’ fees unless the company clearly discloses that its service isn’t a substitute for a law firm.
Simply selling legal forms doesn’t constitute the practice of law. LegalZoom can only provide an online form service that allows consumers to choose and complete their own legal documents, explained Consumer Protection Division Chief Doug Walsh.

FULL RELEASE HERE: http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26466