A list of hot topics presented by the Better Business Bureau for the month of May.
BBB Hot Topics - May 2011
1. Check out companies before you hire them to do flood or storm repairs. A rip-off artist may overcharge, perform shoddy work, or skip town with your money – without finishing the job. When hiring, ask for a local address and phone, deal with licensed and insured contractors, take your time signing a contract, and resist hiring a contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job up front. Also, check with BBB to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
2. Scammers are using Osama Bin Laden’s death to spread Malware on Facebook and Google. One site shows a “purported photo of a murdered Osama bin Laden” with a call to download a video player to view video of his death. The download is actually malware, software that is intended to damage or disable computers. On Facebook, pages offering “FREE Subway” and “2 Southwest Plane Tickets” to celebrate Osama’s death are spreading malicious links. Be sure your security software is up to date!
3. When shopping for Mother’s Day flowers, deal with a local company. Some telemarketers place bogus listings in local phone directories. When you call the local number you are actually forwarded to an out-of-town firm that takes your order and credit card information, then forwards the order to an area florist. The telemarketer pockets a processing fee, and sometimes you are charged more than you planned, the flowers are not delivered as ordered, or worse – not delivered at all!
4. Sony PlayStation Security Breach - Personal information, including names, addresses, birth dates, email addresses, and PlayStation logins and passwords were compromised after a major security breach. Credit card information MAY have been compromised as well. Sony reports it can’t be ruled out. Check your accounts and credit report information regularly to be sure your personal information was not compromised
5. Jury Duty Scam - A jury duty “coordinator contacts you. You protest that you never received a summons for jury duty. The scammer intimidates you, then asks for your Social Security number and date of birth so he/she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. This is an attempt to steal your identity. NEVER give personal information out over the phone to someone you don’t know!
6. Mortgage Scam - Struggling homeowners across the Country are receiving notices in the mail that read, “your loan may be eligible for a national litigation settlement aimed at fraudulent lender actions.” The out-of-state law firm asks you to pay an upfront fee to join the lawsuit to force your mortgage lender to reduce your monthly payments. Don’t fall for this scam! Contact your mortgage company if you cannot pay!
7. The 809, 284, 649, or 876 area codes have been used in scams before but now they are gaining popularity targeting cell phones. The goal is to make you return the call to the area code which appears to be a domestic number. The number is connected to a phone number out of the US - often Canada or the Caribbean, and charged expensive international rates. They may say to call to collect a prize, get some information, or find out about a sick relative.
8. Daily Deal Sites aren’t always a great deal. Before you sign up, check the voucher restrictions for excluded dates and any extra charges the voucher doesn’t cover. Also, check the expiration date. Some companies may oversell a deal, making it difficult to get an appointment, so check the refund policy as well.
9. Bed Bugs are a pest! Prevent bed bugs by inspecting furniture; enclose mattresses and box springs in covers labeled “allergen rated, for dust mites, or for bed bugs.” Check for rips or openings and patch them securely. Traveling? Use luggage racks to hold suitcases, and when staying in a hotel check the mattress and headboard before getting into bed. When you get home, unpack directly into a washing machine. For more tips, go to www.bbb.org.
10. Summer Camp - BBB recommends parents do their homework on summer camps for their kids before they submit applications. Be sure to visit the site, ask about the staff’s training and experience, and find out how the camp will handle medical emergencies. Parents should also find out the total fees and payment deadlines, and ask for references.