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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana
BBB Twice a Month Tips You Can Trust for the Week November 15, 2010
December 01, 2010

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

For the Week of 11/15/10

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

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The BBB of Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana

TIP NUMBER ONE
BE WARY OF WORK FROM HOME SPAM EMAIL SENT WITH
SUBJECT: “Hey lets do this together”

BBB received a message from a local consumer asking about the below email they received. It supposedly came from a tenant of hers, but the tenant said she did not send it. BBB NOTE: The tenant’s computer had been hacked and it spoofed email sin the tenant’s address book and sent this message. Weird, huh? Aggressive, huh?

BBB NOTE: The biggest red flag about this offer is that it came as SPAM. Also, it was sent by someone the recipient knew, but the supposed sender states they did not send it. Also, inflated statements like these: “My biggest day making money online was $430 dollars and I just started last week!”

It is also a random SPAM email being sent to you providing a link for you to click on. BEWARE clicking on links in emails such as these. They may contain viruses that could harm your computer.

ORIGINAL EMAIL SENT

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: XXXXXX
To: XXXXXXXXXX (Your email here)
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2010 2:56:09 AM
Subject: Hey lets do this together

Hi XXX, we haven't talked in a while... Making money from home is the new thing, you've gotta get on this. My biggest day making money online was $430 dollars and I just started last week! Go to this article and go over it then get the kit on the page, you don't even have to spend any money. XXX (Link here removed by BBB for safety reasons.)

ALONG THOSE LINES…

TIP NUMBER TWO

Work from Home Opportunity PEOPLE’S LIFESTYLE, INC. of Louisiana Advertising in North ID Paper

Company has F Rating with BBB

People's Lifestyle, Inc. lists their type of business as "Work at Home Directory." This company has an F with the BBB due to unanswered and unresolved complaints. Our file shows the company has received an unusually large number of complaints in our three year reporting period which involved customer difficulty in obtaining a refund.

We have learned that the firm is offering a list of companies, and the consumer must contact these firms to see if there is any employment available. This firm is not an employment agency. We strongly suggest that you find out in advance the company's limited refund policy.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW HERE
http://www.bbb.org/new-orleans/business-reviews/work-at-home-companies/people-s-life-styles-inc-in-slidell-la-4000000/

AD BEING RUN
NOW HIRING: Companies desperately need employees to assemble products at home No selling, any hours $500 weekly potential Info 1-985-646-1700 DEPT ID-7605

TIP NUMBER THREE

http://top100executivemagazine.com/ aka Top 100 Executives Magazine of NY Sending Random Award Notices: This is a Vanity Award Offer

Same Address Being Used for IABL (International Association of Business Leaders) Worldwide of NY

BBB received the following notice in its INBOX over the weekend:

FROM: no-reply@top100executivemagazine.com
SUBJECT: Top 100 Business Leaders of 2010
Dear XXX,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected by the nomination committee to represent your industry in the Top 100 Business Leaders of 2010.

This global publication is a full color magazine that features the biographies and photos of only the most accomplished individuals.
After the extensive evaluation of thousands of potential candidates, the board has determined that your exemplary career is worthy of this kind of recognition.

To ensure your inclusion in the magazine, we will need to verify your biographical information and obtain your photo and/or company logo prior to the upcoming publication deadline.

In order to validate your candidacy, please use the link below which will direct you to the confirmation page.

To verify your profile, please XXXX (link here removed by BBB for safety reasons.)

There is no obligation for this recognition, but you must proceed to fill in your information within 7 days or this link will expire.

Thank you,

Bradford Sutton
Executive Vice-President
Top 100 Magazine
176-25 Union Turnpike #183
Fresh Meadows, NY 11365

If you no longer wish to receive further email communication from us please XXXXX (link here removed by BBB for safety reasons)

BBB ADVICE ON VANITY AWARD OFFERS

The BBB offers several tips to avoid losing money in a “vanity award” program:

• Learn everything you can about who is giving the award. If it is coming from a mystery company, chances are it simply wants your money.

• If you didn’t apply for an award or the group cannot tell you how you were nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.

• Most legitimate awards do not come with costs for the recipient. If there is a cost, scrutinize it even more closely.

• Ask specific questions about how your company or organization was chosen for an award and find out how many similar awards are given each year.

• Check BBB reliability reports at www.bbb.org or by calling 509-455-4200 or 800-356-1007.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW HERE for IABL Worldwide
http://www.bbb.org/new-york-city/business-reviews/business-opportunity-companies/international-association-of-business-leaders-in-astoria-ny-117200/

LATEST ADVANCE FEE LOAN SCAM OUT OF RHODE ISLAND:
Twin River Lending Group of RI

A company in Rhode Island advertises that it will give consumers loans regardless of their credit history. They require an upfront fee of hundreds of dollars. Complaints have been flooding in to BBB from consumers who say that they paid the fee, but never received their loan.

Twin River Lending Group is listed in Providence, RI. But when a local TV station tried to get in touch with them, the phone number was out of service and the address listed for the company did not exist. Don't get scammed by a company like this!  Paying a fee, especially by wire transfer, in advance for a service that has not yet been performed is not recommended. Once the fee has been wire transferred, it is almost impossible to track.

FULL WARNING HERE: http://www.bbb.org/us/SitePage.aspx?pid=7994&t=Consumers-become-victims-of-Advance-Fee&site=113&id=18d713f5-9849-4712-886c-b34084955273

TIP NUMBER FOUR

MY PRACTICE, INC. Sending Letters to Medical Professionals that Give Required Cancellation Deadlines “or Your Account Will be Charged Monthly through your Phone Bill”

The BBB heard from a regional medical professional about a letter they received in the mail from the above-mentioned company. The professional was not happy with the tone of the letter, which stated that My Practice had set up an account for them, and they should begin using it, and if they don’t respond to them by a certain deadline, their phone bill would begin being charged a monthly fee.

According to BBB Reno files, consumers claim they are being billed for medical/professional listing services they did not request or agree to. The business usually responds to complaints by referring to a telephone conversation which took place sometime earlier giving them permission to proceed with the trial service. Consumers deny such telephone approval and state the terms and conditions were not fully disclosed. Some complainants claim the business did not give ample time or notification to cancel prior to the beginning of billing.

BBB ADVICE
If you have an unresolved issue concerning this company, we urge you to file a formal complaint with your state Attorney General’s Office as well as the BBB at: www.bbb.org

BBB Business Review on My Practice
http://www.bbb.org/reno/business-reviews/advertising-directory-and-guide/mypractice-in-reno-nv-90011990 

SENIOR ALERT: Watch Out for Cold Calls Offering Health or Medical Products or Services  

An elderly Spokane woman keeps getting calls (no caller ID) that ask if she is a diabetic. They want to send her “the latest meter for FREE” and say the SSN they have for her is wrong, and to go get hers out of her wallet. They say, “It’s red, white, and blue.” What scared her is that they had almost her exact correct SSN except for the last digit.

BBB ADVICE
Be very wary of ANY cold call that comes randomly to you requiring or asking for a social security number. If the conversation goes to that place, just stand firm and say NO, and end the conversation.

TRAVEL FIRM, ALAMO ADVENTURE GETAWAYS of TX Making Empty Promises

Alamo Adventure Getaways Fails to Provide Sales Presentation Perks

Thx to Austin BBB for this Warning

BBB has issued an F rating to Alamo Adventure Getaways for failure to respond to consumer disputes. The San Antonio-based company sells travel memberships and solicits consumers nationwide to attend local sales presentations. The attendees are told they can expect rewards worth hundreds of dollars, such as gift cards or travel packages, in exchange for their time.

Full warning here: http://austin.bbb.org/article/bbb-warns-san-antonio-travel-company-makes-empty-promises-23318

SEASONAL TIPS: TIME TO DUCT CLEAN OR NOT?
YOU DECIDE, BUT ALSO, DO HOMEWORK!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges consumers to be wary of any company that makes sweeping promises that air duct cleaning will improve residents’ health. The EPA suggests cleaning in cases where there is visible mold growth, vermin infestation or the ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris.  It also says that homeowners need to fully understand the pros and cons of using chemical treatments.

The BBB offers the following tips for consumers looking to hire a duct-cleaning firm:

• Deal only with reputable companies, preferably businesses in your area with a good track record. Ask for references from homeowners in your neighborhood.  Always contact the BBB for a Reliability Report by going to www.bbb.org or calling 314-645-3300.

• Beware of advertising that offers what seem to be extremely low prices for air duct cleaning. Often, these ads are used by businesses expecting to sell additional services once they get inside your home.

• If a company discovers a potential problem in your furnace or ducts, do not be pressured into paying for additional services until you have contacted a heating and air conditioning professional for a second opinion. While the second company may charge you for a service call to check out the problem, the call may save you money if not service is needed.

• Try to have a friend or family member with you during a scheduled appointment with a salesman or service technician. If that is not possible and you feel threatened or intimidated during the visit, ask the person or persons to leave your home immediately.  If they refuse or hesitate, call your local police.

RECENT ORDERS AND ACTIONS, AND OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM OUR AGENCY PARTNERS

FBI: THE INTERNET CRIME COMPLAINT CENTER
WWW.IC3.GOV  HITS 2 MILLION!

Fairmont, WV — The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has logged its 2 millionth consumer complaint alleging online criminal activity. The 2 millionth complaint arrived on November 9th, 2010 at 8:11 PM.

The IC3, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, went operational in May of 2000 and received its one millionth complaint seven years later, on June 11, 2007. Receipt of its 2 millionth complaint required half that time, illustrating both the increased visibility of the IC3 and the continued growth of cyber crime.

Full Story Here: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2010/101115.aspx

WA DEPT. OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIES
Not Paying Workers’ Comp Could be Costly to Construction Employers

11/10/2010

TUMWATER, WA— Employers dodging workers’ compensation premiums can expect to face significant new consequences from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Starting November 10th, any construction firm caught with workers, but no current L&I workers’ compensation account, can be served a Stop Work Order (SWO).

A SWO is a legal notice requiring an employer to immediately stop work and remain stopped until the employer comes into compliance with state requirements.

FULL RELEASE HERE: http://www.lni.wa.gov/News/2010/pr101110b.asp

WA AG: Former U.S. Fidelis owners barred from telemarketing or selling auto service contracts in 11 states

Attorneys General settle with Atkinson brothers

OYMPIA – The Washington Attorney General’s Office spearheaded a multistate settlement with the former owners of U.S. Fidelis that ensures the brothers will never again sell auto service contracts or telemarket in 11 states. The agreement also severely restricts how the duo advertises any other product or service and requires them to turn over nearly all their assets.

The business practices of U.S. Fidelis, which operated as National Auto Warranty Services and Dealer Services until its bankruptcy last spring, have been widely reported. More than 400,000 consumers nationwide paid the Wentzville, Mo., company thousands for overpriced service contracts that were sold through illegal and deceptive means. Its founders, Missouri brothers Darain and Cory Atkinson, are accused of plundering $101 million in corporate assets for their own personal gain.
Full release here: http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26814

MONTANA DEPT. OF REVENUE SUES ONLINE TRAVEL COMPANIES OVER LODGING FACILITY TAXES

(Helena) - The State of Montana is alleging in a lawsuit that it has been cheated out of millions of dollars in state lodging facility taxes. The Montana Department of Revenue filed the lawsuit today in Lewis and Clark County District Court, suing for back taxes from Priceline.com, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity.com and other online travel reservation companies that offer discount hotel rooms.

The lawsuit alleges the companies collect taxes from travelers that are calculated from the retail room rates and only pay the state taxes on the wholesale rates. The lawsuit also alleges that Montana never receives this additional tax revenue collected from the travelers and that it is kept by the companies.

The Montana lawsuit is the latest against the online travel industry. Dozens of state and local governments across the nation have been auditing and filing lawsuits asking online travel companies to collect and pay the correct lodging taxes. A year ago, Florida became the first state to sue the online travel companies. Oklahoma filed a lawsuit last week. San Antonio and other Texas cities last year won $20 million in their 2006 lawsuit against Expedia and other companies. State lodging tax revenue is divided between tourism promotion and the general fund.

Available Graphics:
A map depicting lawsuit locations may be found at http://revenue.mt.gov/files/state-local-lawsuits-online-travel-companies.pdf.  Our research shows that there have been 68 lawsuits filed in 22 states to date.

FTC: Google Money Tree Defendants Must Surrender Assets of More than $3.5 Million, Banned from Using ‘Negative Option’ Strategy to Automatically Bill Consumers

An online marketer that falsely claimed ties to Google Inc. has been forced to stop operations as part of a Federal Trade Commission action that charged the defendants with marketing an allegedly bogus work-at-home scheme and charging hidden monthly fees to consumers’ credit card and bank accounts…

FULL ACTION HERE: http://ftc.gov/opa/2010/10/googlemoney.shtm

AscendOne of MD settles multistate case for $4.5 million
Attorneys general accuse AscendOne of misleading consumers about its for-profit status

SEATTLE – A debt management business that allegedly misled consumers about its for-profit status will pay $4.5 million to settle claims brought by 20 attorneys general. Maryland-based AscendOne Corp., and its subsidiaries Amerix Corp., CareOne Services, Inc., FreedomPoint Financial Corporation and 3C, Inc., contract with nonprofit credit counseling agencies.

Attorneys general alleged the company and its owner, Bernaldo Dancel, misled consumers into believing they would receive debt management services from nonprofit organizations when, in fact, AscendOne performed the services. The states also alleged that consumers frequently did not receive promised credit counseling and that some did not benefit at all from the debt management plans.

FULL ACTION HERE: http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26780