BBB Twice a Month Tips You Can Trust for the Week October 4, 2010

  
     
October 04, 2010

 BBB TWICE A MONTH TIPS YOU CAN TRUST
Compiled by Zan Deery, Communications/Investigations

For the Week of 10/4/10

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

CRAMMING IS PREVELANT: CHECK PHONE BILLS CAREFULLY AND REGULARLY 

Sneaky little charges are making their way onto telephone bills and can go unnoticed for months.  Victims of so-called “cramming” often face a tough battle to stop being billed every month and start getting their money back.  In order to fight cramming, Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends keeping a close eye on every bill and being extremely cautious when giving out personal information such as phone numbers.

FULL STORY WITH TIPS HERE
http://spokane.bbb.org/article/five-ways-to-fight-back-against-phone-bill-cramming-22509

ALONG THESE LINES…

Verizon Wireless to Pay Refunds for Data Charges

MORE on this story from the NY Times via Regional BBB Tweet here
http://nyti.ms/cv8UZz

TIP NUMBER TWO

Robert Allen's Multiple Streams of Income aka Enlightened Wealth Institute of UT Has D+ Rating with BBB

Company Uses Spokane Woman’s Blog Testimonial to Pitch Work-from-Home Opportunity

www.emitraining.com
www.multiplestreamsifincome.com
www.robertgallen.com

This link below was recently brought to this BBB’s attention due to the fact that it is using a Spokane, WA customer’s testimonial to pitch this work-from-home opportunity via the above-mentioned company from UT:
http://wallstreetnews9.com/ra/?t202id=11931&t202kw=bizaTV113

Here is the BBB Business Review for this company, which is HQed in Provo, UT:

http://www.bbb.org/utah/business-reviews/training-program-companies/enlightened-wealth-institute-in-provo-ut-10012249

BBB ADVICE on Coaching - Training Programs

Throughout many industries and occupations, training classes are an essential part of everyday business. Whether it is a mandatory class designed for employees, or a class of a person's choice, it is designed to help them in an area of desired improvement. These classes can range in length from one day to many weeks, and can be on a variety of subjects. Technology classes, such as computer training, are popular, as are certification classes. It is a broad industry, and thus it is important to fully understand how these classes can be used to exploit buyers. Often classes are extremely expensive, and the customer has a right to expect good service and fair treatment.

The following are a number of questions that outline and highlight some of the major issues and concerns when dealing with training classes. It is important to understand that the diverse makeup of this industry brings with it different questions for different classes.

The first and most important question you must ask is:

* What is the reason you want to take the class? Whether it is a requirement or a choice, you must identify what you want out of the class. In each case, the answer must be a desire to learn and master the topic that class covers. A "goal" of profit is not a good mindset, as it cannot always be obtained. Other important questions:

* Does the training class guarantee "profit" or monetary gain as a result of their class?

* What percentage of students who sign up for the program complete the program? If the company states that you'll make money after finishing - ask what percentage of people do not make their money back?

* Does the class or training company offer any timeline or guarantee on a schedule? Is there a possibility the class will be canceled or rescheduled? If canceled, can the customer be put in another class, or will they begin the registration process all over again? Does the company have a guarantee that the class will not be canceled?

* What are the qualifications of the teachers or coaches?

* What is the company policy on refunds? What are the "fine print" rules on receiving the refund and how can the customer be sure they will be compensated? Make sure any promises of refunds not stated in the contract are written down and initialed by the company and the student, before signing.

* What type of compensation can be made if the customer is unable to complete the program put forth due to medical or other unforeseen reasons?

* Are there any fees that are not outlined and described in the actual class? Will the customer be charged extra or required to buy outside materials for the class, adding to the flat cost?

* How will the customer be informed of the payment plan, if necessary? Can the customer pay in installments if the course is over a period of weeks?

* If a certification class, does it show any proof that it matches with industry standards or compliance? For example, does a medical training class that claims to offer certification in an area really have that certification in the mainstream medical world?

* Testimonials used by companies are required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be typical results. Do the testimonials match up with the percentages and dollar amounts the company is promising, if not caution should be exercised.

This general information is not regarding a specific company, but is intended to help consumers who are investigating a company prior to doing business. It was developed with the help of the University of Utah Honors 1051 class (December 2009).

SEMINAR MARKETING

Consumers who plan to attend free seminars should be aware that in most cases the presenters will promote products and services that are for sale. Products sold at these seminars include self improvement, investment education materials, and home based businesses. Individuals interested in home based businesses need to consider all aspects and costs of starting and operating a business. This may include:

* licensing, advertising, bookkeeping and other related expenses.

In any business venture, area saturation can occur due to a lack of territorial restrictions. In all cases, a wide variation in earnings should be expected. Be sure to read and understand any cancellation policies or guarantees before making a purchase.

TIP NUMBER THREE

Identity Theft Scam Targets Job Hunters

The Orlando Sentinel reported in a recent article about a global identity-theft scheme that used stolen corporate information to scam hundreds of thousands of job hunters. The scheme uses fake websites, bulk emails, fake job applications and bank fraud to steal personal data and money.

The scam was discovered by Orlando business owner, Steven Miguel, who started to receive inquiries about help-wanted ads on his business’ website. Miguel’s construction project management company has taken the scheme to court and plans to sue, hoping to repair his company’s tarnished reputation. The business is one of many Florida companies who have been targeted. 

The scheme has international ties, including information from countries such as Russia, Poland and Germany, as well as in other U.S. states, including Washington. Since the case was brought to court, officials have attempted to block scammers from further action but have been unsuccessful.

Read the full article here: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-09-19/business/os-corporate-id-theft-ring-20100919_1_identity-theft-identity-theft-online-job-scams

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING SELF-REGULATION NEWS

The Council of Better Business Bureaus today joined other leaders in the advertising industry in announcing a new self-regulation program for online behavioral advertising.  The program establishes principles for online advertising, increases disclosure on online tracking and lets consumers exercise more control over how they are tracked online.

Full BBB release here: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/major-marketing/-media-trade-groups-launch-program-to-give-consumers-enhanc-22561

TIP NUMBER FOUR

Getting the Most "Boo!" For Your Buck: BBB Halloween Tips

Halloween is around the corner, folks. Department stores have giant economy-sized bags of candy stocked to the ceiling. Rubber rats cram the shelves. Costumes - everything from pirates to princesses, fairies to cowboys, vampires to vixens - hang in neat racks. Orange and black streamers string between the aisles.  Economically, the holiday has evolved to much more than it was in the 60's and 70's when I was growing up. What used to be a "child-centric" event has crossed age borders and, in doing so, has become quite an earner for retailers. The average person will spend nearly $200 on costumes, candy, cards, and decorations. The National Retail Federation says the holiday should net stores about $6 billion. That's a lot of plastic pumpkins.

FULL STORY WITH TIPS HERE: http://spokane.bbb.org/article/getting-the-most-boo-for-your-buck-bbb-halloween-tips-22501

TIP NUMBER FIVE

Consumers Say iRenew Bracelet Did Nothing for Their Health
Thanks to the St. Louis BBB for this Warning

Consumers say that an “energy-balancing” bracelet widely advertised as an aid to improved flexibility, balance and strength has done nothing to improve their health.

Other customers have told the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that they have been frustrated by overbilling, slow delivery and failed attempts to obtain refunds from the Massachusetts-based company that markets the bracelets.

The BBB suggests caution to anyone considering buying the iRenew bracelet, which is advertised on TV across the U.S. The bracelet is distributed by Harvest Trading Group of Norwell, Mass., a company that has marketed such “as seen on TV” items as the One Touch Can Opener and the Pancake Puff mini-pancake maker. Harvest Trading Group has a “D” grade with the BBB on a scale of A to F. The BBB in Boston reports about 100 complaints against the company.

FULL RELEASE WITH TIPS HERE: http://stlouis.bbb.org/article/consumers-say-irenew-bracelet-did-nothing-for-their-health-22418

BBB ADVICE

The BBB offers the following advice from people looking at alternative methods of improving their health:

• Consult your physician before trying any product marketed to improve your health. Ask your doctor whether you could benefit from the product.
• Before ordering any product that is advertised on TV, radio, the Internet or in print publications, make sure you read all information carefully, including any disclaimers or fine print. In the event you might want to return the item, ask whether you will be able to get a refund of your postage and handling costs.
• Check a company’s Reliability Report with the BBB by going to www.bbb.org.

ONES FOR THE GIPPER…

BUSINESS WARNING: “INVENTORY DISPATCH CENTER” ATTEMPTING TO DECEIVE BY STATING THEY ARE YOUR CARTRIDGE COMPANY FOR COPIERS

A woman called one of our regional media outlet’s Editorial Office stating she was with "Inventory Dispatch Center," and needed the model number of (one of) the company’s photocopiers. She said their computers were down and they were doing a manual inventory. She also claimed they were the ones who supply us cartridges. She was calling from (310) 478-0272. The smart staffer who received this call knew that they get all their copier services and supplies locally. The staffer told her he would need to find someone else to help her. She then hung up.

BBB ADVICE

These types of calls are rampant right now. Here are some tips:

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.

UNION WORKERS CREDIT SERVICES of TX Not an Official Credit Card

Consumers in the area may also be receiving credit card offers from Union Workers Credit Services. The offer letter advises the consumer that he or she is approved for a credit line of $10,000 with an interest rate of 5 percent. The BBB wants consumers to read the fine print at the bottom of the letter where the credit card offer states, this "shall not be construed to function as any type of multi-purpose credit card and is exclusively applicable for credit purchases from UWCS." In other words, for a fee, this firm offers a credit card that can only be used in their merchandise catalogue. It is not a major credit card. According to the company they state" Union Workers Credit Services offer their members several direct and discount benefits".

BBB Business Review here:
http://www.fortworth.bbb.org/commonreport.html?compid=A5041467

NORTH IDAHO BUSINESS RESOURCE:

Idaho Small Business Development Center, Post Falls, ID
Fall 2010 Workshops Now Posted, Check them Out!
www.idahosbc.org or call 208-769-3333

ORDERS AND ACTIONS

U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Justice Department Sues American Express, Mastercard and Visa to Eliminate Rules Restricting Price Competition; Reaches Settlement with Visa and Mastercard

Dept. to Litigate Against American Express to Promote Competition among Credit Card Networks Enabling Merchants to Benefit Consumers

FULL RELEASE HERE: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/October/10-at-1115.html

WA STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL’s OFFICE

WA AG Settlement irons out wrinkles between states and Botox manufacturer

WA AG announces three drug company settlements

OLYMPIA – Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced $3.9 million worth of new settlements with drug companies today. The settlements involve the marketing of drugs in a way that runs afoul of Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Those marketing practices, government attorneys say, illegally extract money from Medicaid.

FULL ORDER HERE: http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26528

PennyBiddr agrees to cash out and refund consumers under agreement with WA Attorney General

Some penny auctions use cheap tricks to cheat consumers, state warns

SEATTLE – Penny auction sites lure consumers with cheap prices on brand-name electronics, designer handbags and discounted store gift cards. But an investigation by the Washington Attorney General’s Office shows how some of these sites can fool consumers into paying big bucks on an auction with no winner. These sites use shill bids to drive up prices by one unlucky penny at a time.

FULL RELEASE HERE: http://spokane.bbb.org/article/pennybiddr-agrees-to-cash-out-and-refund-consumers-under-agreement-with-washington-attorney-general-22455

WA STATE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS SECURITIES DIVISION

Charles McSwain, Billie’s Casino Investment LLC
S-06-150-10-CO01 – Consent Order

On August 18, 2010, the Securities Division entered into a Consent Order with Charles McSwain and Billie’s Casino Investment LLC (collectively “Respondents”).  In the Consent Order, the Securities Division alleged that the Respondents offered and sold at least $1,378,688 in investments in Billie’s Casino Investment LLC to at least 15 Washington residents.  The Respondents raised the funds in order to open and operate a mini-casino in Renton, Washington.  The Securities Division alleged that Respondents offered and sold unregistered securities, acted as unregistered broker-dealers or securities salespersons, and violated the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of Washington.  In settling the matter, Respondents neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to cease and desist from violating the Securities Act.  Respondent McSwain further agreed to pay a fine of $5,000.  Respondents waived their rights to a hearing and to judicial review of this matter.

Chesterfield Mortgage Investors, Inc. and Charles M. Chesterfield
S-10-293-10-CO01 – Consent Order
 
On September 29, 2010, the Securities Division entered into a Consent Order with Chesterfield Mortgage Investors, Inc. (“CMI”) and Charles M. Chesterfield (“Chesterfield”).  During an examination of CMI in August 2010, the Securities Division found that CMI had misused funds that were paid for the benefit of investors.  The Securities Division found that CMI had misused more than $1 million in proceeds from early loan payoffs, instead of distributing the payoffs to the investors who had purchased participation interests in the loans.  With the entry of the Consent Order, CMI’s securities broker-dealer license was revoked.  Chesterfield’s securities salesperson license was also revoked for a period of at least ten years.  Chesterfield also agreed to cooperate fully with the receiver who has been appointed to handle the liquidation of CMI.