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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana
Twice a Month Tips You Can Trust for the Week of July 26, 2010
January 03, 2011

TIP NUMBER ONE

URBAN LEGEND EMAIL ABOUT HOTELS AND CREDIT CARDS COMES BACK ON BBB RADAR

Have you seen this email circulating in your INBOX?

This one is so simple it is shocking!

You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. When
checking in, you give the front desk your credit card (for all the
charges for your room). You get to your room and settle in.

Someone calls the front desk and asked for; example Room 620
(which happens to be your room). Your phone rings in your room.

You answer and the person on the other end says the following,
'This is the front desk. When checking in, we came cross a slight
problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me
your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers at
the reverse side of your charge card.'

Not thinking anything you might give this person your information,
since the call seems to come from the front desk.

But actually, it is a scam of someone calling from outside the hotel/front desk.

They ask for a random room number. Then, ask you for credit card
information and address information. Sounding so professional that
you do think you are talking to the front desk.

If you ever encounter this problem on your vacation, tell the caller
that you will be down at the front desk to clear up any problems...


Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there
was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone called to
scam you of your credit card information acting like a front desk
employee.

Here is what SNOPES says: http://www.snopes.com/fraud/phishing/hotel.asp

TIP NUMBER TWO

Attn: BRIDAL BUSINESSES
BRIDAL SHOW WARNING: Dream Wedding Bridal Expo (DWBE)

BBB would like to alert you to a bridal show promotion that could pop up in your area that has already raised lots of red flags with the Dallas BBB as well as others nationwide. The promoters apparently operated solely online and by phone only, so they could be located anywhere, claim to be located anywhere, under any name. Dream Wedding Bridal Expo (DWBE) came to Dallas BBB’s attention last week. DWBE has a Web site at: www.dreamweddingbridalexpo.com

A bridal service received an email blast and paid a deposit. The bridal service said that after paying the deposit, they checked with the hotel and learned DWBE had not even contacted the hotel about exhibit space. The bridal service asked DWBE for a refund but never received one. The bridal service noted that the address shown on DWBE’s site is a large office building, and there’s no indication of which suite DWBE supposedly was in.

BBB confirmed with the hotel that DWBE had not even contacted them. The hotel representative said she also spoke to three of the “sponsors” listed on DWBE’s site and none of them had heard of DWBE. DWBE reps state that due to “issues with the venue” and “lack of support”, the show was cancelled.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW

http://www.bbb.org/dallas/business-reviews/trade-shows-expositions-and-fairs/dream-wedding-bridal-expo-in-dallas-tx-90249499

BBB ADVICE

If you have fallen victim of this group, we urge you to file formal complaints with BBB, your state Attorney General’s Office as well as the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center at: www.ic3.gov

And on a grander scale, read this: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jfiIV47J-dazOEDR-055Xv7NHFuQD9H7G8784

TIP NUMBER THREE

COMPLETING SURVEYS CAN INCREASE TELEMARKETING CALLS AND JUNK MAIL

Consumers Receive Surveys with Sweepstakes and Coupon Perks, BBB Says Use Caution

Thanks to WWA, OR and AK BBB for this Warning!

Better Business Bureau warns that consumers should use caution when filling out surveys, even those boasting coupons or prizes through sweepstakes and lottery entries.

BBB provides the following tips on avoiding surveys and sweepstakes that may lead to telemarketing calls and junk mail:

Surveys

- Never fill out surveys that request personal information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card or bank account information.

- Avoid filling out surveys impulsively. Read the business' fine print and privacy policy. If it states the company will provide or sell contact information to other businesses or organizations, fill out the survey at your own risk.

- If filling out a survey, look for an opt-out box to avoid receiving solicitations. Even if the survey says consumers can later choose to opt-out of programs that pass on contact and survey information, it may not be worth the hassle of receiving information from annoying, disreputable or scam sources.

Sweepstakes/Lotteries

- Be wary if you receive a win notice, but don't remember entering the contest. To win a lottery or sweepstakes, consumers must enter the competition.

- Don't pay to collect winnings; in legitimate cases, shipping and other fees are taken out of the winnings before the money is sent. Taxes on winnings would be handled through tax returns.

- Remember, playing a foreign lottery, via telephone or mail, is against federal law.

Consumers can get BBB Reliability Reports on businesses distributing surveys at www.bbb.org.

TIP NUMBER FOUR

Beware of UN Job Scams

Getting out of the military soon? Thinking of applying for a job with the United Nations (UN) using the job and language skills you picked up during your deployments? Well, there are scammers who hope you will!

According to a July 12th, 2010, release http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/l3161.doc.htm from the UN’s Department of Public Information, there have been a number of scams recently misusing the UN’s name and emblem on correspondence, Web sites and emails circulating worldwide. As always with scams, the intent is to acquire money and/or personal information from those who take the bait.

FULL STORY WITH TIPS HERE http://www.bbb.org/us/article/beware-of-un-job-scams-21011

TIP NUMBER FIVE

ACI, INC. SENDING YOUNG ADULTS DOOR-TO-DOOR SELLING MAGAZINES IN THE INLAND NW AND MONTANA

It is that time when young adult crews are being deployed to various regions throughout the United States to sell magazines door to door. One such company always on BBB’s radar each year is ACI, Inc, which has a C rating with BBB. There have been reports to BBB that many potential customers don’t “believe the pitch” that most young adults make at their doors trying to sell magazines. They will say a variety of deceptive things to try to get people to purchase magazines from them.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW

http://www.dc.bbb.org/report.html?national=y&compid=80014692

IDAHO DEPT. OF FINANCE ORDER

Federal Recovery Acceptance aka Paramount Acceptance of UT SETTLES WITH IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

Boise, Idaho . . . . The Idaho Department of Finance announced a settlement today in which Utah-based Federal Recovery Acceptance, Inc., doing business as Paramount Acceptance, agreed to pay $55,000 in penalties, attorney fees, and investigative expenses as a sanction for conducting unlicensed collection activity in Idaho.

Paramount Acceptance provides services to Idaho fitness clubs, including receipt of money from the fitness clubs’ members that then is paid to the fitness clubs in the form of monthly club dues, and collecting on delinquent payments. “That type of business activity requires a license under the Idaho Collection Agency Act,” Finance Department Director Gavin Gee stated.

The Department became aware of Paramount Acceptance’s unlicensed activity in Idaho through a complaint it received from an Idaho consumer from whom the company was collecting. “Paramount Acceptance and the department have entered into a consent order to resolve the case, which includes the company’s agreement to immediately obtain the appropriate Idaho license and maintain compliance with Idaho law,” Gee said.

A list of Idaho licensed collection agencies can be accessed on the Department’s website at: http://finance.idaho.gov/CollectionAgency/CollectionAgencyLicense.aspx.

RECENT WA STATE ORDERS

WA AG Settles With The Preservation Group of AZ Under State’s “Trust Mill” Law

Seminar speakers weren’t qualified to sell estate planning documents

SEATTLE – The Attorney General’s Office has accused an Arizona company of violating a 3-year-old state law intended to crack down on “trust mill” schemes. The Preservation Group and its founders will offer refunds to more than 60 Washington seniors who purchased living trusts, under a settlement announced today by the Washington Attorney General’s Office. Full order here: http://spokane.bbb.org/article/wa-ag-settles-with-the-preservation-group-of-az-under-states-trust-mill-law-21062

VP COAST PROPERTIES TRIPS UP ON TIMESHARE PROMISES

BBB Has Concerns with Company's Lack Of Response and Inquiry Increase

DuPont, Wash. – July 20, 2010 – Better Business Bureau is receiving inquiries and complaints about a company that offers to connect timeshare owners to renters and buyers, but has left several clients questioning the company's legitimacy.

Complaints allege consumers paid between $1,000 and $4,000 to VP Coast Properties; also going by Coast to Coast Timeshare and Coast to Coast Vacation Properties. After purchasing most complainants have had trouble reaching the company. Some are questioning if services paid for were actually performed; specifically regarding the sale of timeshares.

VP Coast Properties has an "F" rating with BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington for failure to obtain licensing and unanswered complaints. BBB has received 535 inquiries about the company since February 2010.

BBB has tried to contact the business on numerous occasions. Multiple phone numbers connect to an answering service and e-mails receive no response. BBB has also received return mail from 2201 6th Ave., Ste. 438, Seattle—the alleged corporate headquarters—and no response from 245 8th Ave., #367, New York—the mailing address listed on vpcoast.com.

In addition, BBB cannot verify VP Coast Properties is licensed in any of the states it claims to operate: Washington, Nevada, Florida or New York.

Consumers are encouraged to check out businesses for free before they buy at www.bbb.org.

AND ON A GRANDER SCALE…

FEDS INDICT REAL TIMESHARE MARKETING of FL

Metro East federal prosecutors indicted three Florida men last Wednesday for allegedly conning people across the country for more than $1 million through timeshare scams.

Darnell Disroe, Michael Lentine, and Michael Starace ran Real Timeshare Marketing, which used a telemarketing operation to contact timeshare owners.

According to reports, the company claimed that they found buyers for timeshare and asked owners to pay closing costs and other expenses.

However, there was no buyer for the timeshare property. Real Timeshare Marketing then kept the money.

In a span of five months, the scam reeled in more than $1 million with 615 victims in 46 states.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW
http://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/time-shares/real-timeshare-marketing-in-boynton-beach-fl-92019864

Year-Long BBB Investigation Yields Troubling Findings in the Air Conditioning Duct Cleaning Industry

Thanks to the Sacramento BBB for this Study and Findings

July 20, 2010—West Sacramento—The Better Business Bureau released today, troubling findings from a series of investigative shoppings in a segment of the furnace and air conditioning duct cleaning industry.

The BBB focused on companies using direct mail to advertise duct cleaning services in the price range of $45-$80.

“It is our opinion that thorough and effective cleaning can take several hours to complete at a cost of $300-$500,” said Barry Goggin, president of the BBB serving northeast California. “We wanted to find out what the companies actually did for the $45-$80 they were advertising.”

The BBB’s findings were based on seven “shoppings” covering six different companies, and from the evaluation of 29 consumer complaints against the same companies the BBB shopped.

FINDINGS AND TIPS HERE

http://spokane.bbb.org/article/year-long-bbb-investigation-yields-troubling-findings-in-the-air-conditioning-duct-cleaning-industry-20998

GYMS BE AWARE OF CALLS FROM
FIT-WIPES, 877-348-9473 web site: www.fitwipes.com

Reports of Use of High Pressure, Accusations to Gain Accounts

The following scenario was brought to BBB’s attention regarding the above-mentioned company by a regional gym:

I received a phone call yesterday at our Downtown club from a man identifying himself as Peter. He claimed that he had several complaints regarding our equipment cleaning procedures. He stated that it was reported to him that we used paper towels and a non-compliant disinfectant for cleaning (in plastic spray bottles.)

I disputed his claim, since we do not use paper towels anywhere on our fitness floors. He further stated that he was reporting us to the Washington State Dept of Health and to the Secretary of Health.

He “warned” me that the Health Dept would be visiting our club in the next 3 days. I was very concise in letting him know these “complaints” were false. He came across as arrogant and authoritative. At one point he stated that Washington State had the “highest rate of West Nile Virus, this year, in the nation.”

He provided me with his business number and concluded the conversation by saying his name was Carl Johnson, I said, “I thought you said your name was Peter. He said “No, that’s my assistant.”

I immediately went to my operations manager, told him the whole story. He called the number and got a recording. He thought they said the business name was Fit Life. The recording also provided Eastern Standard Time business hours. I called a few minutes later, and the man who answered said the business name was “Fit Wipes” and that they sold disinfectant wipes. He told me Carl had probably called me from out in the field.

The story gets better.

I called the number again this morning and started to register a complaint with the man who answered “Fit Wipes.” Within minutes of reporting what had taken place yesterday, he said, “Our name is Fit Wise and we handle equipment.” He stated that he didn’t know a “Carl Johnson.” When I stated that his company had confirmed that Carl was an employee, he hung up on me.

BBB NOTE: The person who relayed this scenario contacted the Department of Health and that office confirmed that there have been no cases of West Nile Virus in WA state in 2010.

WARNING TO MASSAGE THERAPISTS: Beware Credit Card Scam Attempting to Book “Massage Package”

Rotr Kenneth
UNCTAD House
30a Great Sutton Street, London EC1V 0DU
+447011128419 hill.kenneth15@gmail.com

A supposed “Kenneth Hill” from England attempted to scam a local massage business by inquiring about booking a “massage package” using fraudulent or soon to be fraudulent credit cards to make the transaction.

Red flags? All correspondence was done by email only, with broken English. Questions posed by the business to the scammers were overlooked and not responded to. The scammers only wanted to get the business to the point where they did exactly what the scammers would say to do with a series of credit card charges. BBB calls this “playing bank” with you. Once a potential transaction heads in this direction, consider it a red flag.

The next biggest red flag is when the scammers state anything about “overpayment charges” being put on a credit card, for example, where you keep a portion for one reason or another, and then send the rest here, there, or anywhere. Another red flag!

“NOTCH BABY” MAILING CONTINUES TO CIRCULATE

Know The Facts About This Mailing

TREA aka Senior Citizens League
909 N. Washington, Suite 300
Alexandria, VA 22314
800-333-8725 or 703-548-5568
www.tscl.org

From time to time, BBB receives inquiries regarding Senior Citizens League’s mailing regarding “notch babies.” We have recently received calls about this mailing. Here is further info regarding this topic (TIP #5):

http://spokane.bbb.org/article/bbb-weekly-tips-you-can-trust-for-the-week-april-6-2009-9882

LATEST WORK AT HOME SCAM PACIFIC PUBLICATIONS of WA

www.pacificpubs.com and www.funsimplework.com

Pacific Publications using the known websites of www.pacificpubs.com and www.funsimplework.com is a company that is advertising through various papers throughout the country for work at home opportunities.

Consumers send in their $42 only to receive no information or they receive a booklet on other work at home companies they can contact to find work stuffing envelopes, assembling products, etc. This is as standard a work at home situation as they come.

BBB says beware, and do your homework before agreeing to pay upfront for work-at-home materials that may not be good for anything but lining the bottom of your birdcage.

BBB BUSINESS REVIEW: http://www.bbb.org/western-washington/business-reviews/work-at-home-companies/pacific-publications-in-seattle-wa-22511478?&nostat&gid=CIDFILES&gen=CIDFILES&lid=1

CONSUMER TIP FOR JULY: HIRING A LAWN CARE SERVICE

  • KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM A LAWN SERVICE: Lawn care companies provide many services, including mowing, maintenance, aeration, seeding, landscaping, fertilization, pest control applications, and tree care.
  • FIND OUT WHICH COMPANIES PROVIDE SERVICE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Ask your neighbors or friends for a recommendation.
  • ASK FOR A LAWN INSPECTION AND A FREE ESTIMATE FOR SERVICE: Services that quote a price without seeing your lawn cannot be sure what your lawn might need.
  • ASK ABOUT THE PRICE SYSTEM AND WHAT SERVICES ARE INCLUDED: Lawn services may offer a yearly contract or a simple verbal agreement giving the customer the right to discontinue service at any time. Find out what happens if you have a problem between contracts. Will the service calls be free or is there a charge?
  • CONSIDER ANNUAL COSTS VS. COST PER APPLICATION: Many companies allow you to pay after each treatment and may offer a discount if you pay the annual cost up front.
  • GET A WRITTEN AGREEMENT ABOUT COSTS AND SERVICES BEFORE YOU PAY: Document the duration and expected results of the lawn care service.
  • LOOK FOR GUARANTEES AND REFUND POLICIES: Some services may offer a guarantee of performance. Others may offer refunds if they fail to meet your expectations.
  • MAKE SURE THE SERVICE IS LICENSED TO APPLY LAWN CARE PRODUCTS AS REQUIRED BY STATE LAW: Check with your state Department of Agriculture or Environmental Department for details.
  • LOOK FOR PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP: A service’s membership in one or more professional lawn care associations and active participation in the local community is a positive sign. Professional organizations keep members informed on new developments in pest control methods, safety, training, research and regulation. Most associations have a code of ethics for members to follow. Affiliation with a professional group is one indication that a company strives for quality in its work.
  • GET A BUSINESS AND COMPLAINT REPORT: For further information on the company's service record, contact your local Better Business Bureau.

To learn more about lawn care, contact the following: