BBB Hot Topics: April 2011

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By Better Business Bureau

 A list of hot topics presented by the Better Business Bureau during the month of April:

1.    Beware of phishing scams related to the Epsilon Breach. Phishing involves unsolicited emails, pop-up messages, text messages, or phone calls that appear to come from reputable companies to fraudulently obtain personal information. BBB recommends: Never reply to unsolicited emails and do not give personal or financial information to anyone you do not know who contacts you via email or phone.

2.    Russell Research is contacting businesses for the IRS. The company is asking businesses what they think about risks associated with electronic tax preparation and transmission. The survey focuses on providers of return preparation and e-filing technologies. Go to www.irs.gov for more information.

3.    BBB wants to remind consumers to Check Bank and Credit Card Statements regularly! This, after a woman’s card number was stolen at a local restaurant. Charges of $500 appeared on her card after she bought chicken for lunch at the restaurant!

4.    Beware of contractors who knock on your door offering a “great deal.” These contractors, often called “Irish Travelers,” come out of the woodwork after spring and summer storms. They often say they have materials left over from a job down the street. If these contractors do shoddy work, you may never be able to find them again. Also, don’t pay anything up-front - they may take your money and run!

5.    Consumers aren’t smiling over Ivory White. The teeth whitening company, which offers free trial offers via the internet, has an “F” rating with BBB due to complaints regarding advertising, billing, and product issues. One local consumer complains she signed up for a free trial offer, she had to pay $1.00 shipping, then her bank account was charged several times. The company does a majority of its advertising through pop-ups on third-party Web sites, including social media networks.

6.    Direct E-cig has an “F” rating with BBB. Local and national consumers complain they ordered what they thought was a free starter kit, then the company billed their credit cards for $100, $200, or more. Consumers also complain about additional deliveries of the products. The business’s website states additional monthly deliveries will be made unless the consumer opts out. However, consumers complain they are not able to contact the business by phone to opt out. Beware of any “Free Trial Offer.” Read the fine print.

7.    Free Movies - Users of movie sites like letmewatchthis.com, letbobwatchthis.com, and movie-source.org should beware of copyright infringement traps. Sites like these house hundreds of pirated movies. By downloading one, movie lovers are committing copyright infringement, which could cost thousands of dollars in fines and possible time in prison. BBB suggests: look for statements that say the website has obtained copyright permission. Also, seek legal alternatives instead, like iTunes and You Tube.

8.    Twilight FB Scam - Posts are circulating that promote a Facebook game surrounding Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Clicking the link offered on the post will force you to “Like” the post, thus spreading it. The app is a survey asking for personal information. Always avoid suspicious-looking links on Facebook

9.    Getting“unwanted texts?” Cell phone users are receiving spam text messages that offer free laptops, information about mortgage assistance, loan offers, and more. Some of these texts are trying to get you to divulge personal information in an attempt to steal your identity - a practice known asSmishing. Don’t reply to these messages - delete them! You can also have the numbers blocked by your cell phone provider - if you don’t have free texting, it could cost you!

10.Planning for a perfect wedding? Avoid disappointment by reading contracts carefully and checking vendors out with BBB. Beware of one-day specials, discounts for advance payment, and hidden costs as you meet potential vendors. Be weary of vendors that ask you to pay fees in advance. Also, be sure to ask about refund policies on deposits or prepayments.