Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning the public and business community about Superior Heavy Machinery, an online entity claiming a Duluth (MN) address and purporting to sell used heavy equipment. BBB has determined they are nothing more than a fake company created solely to defraud consumers and business owners seeking to purchase used heavy equipment online.

Superior Heavy Machinery came to BBB’s attention recently when a consumer reported a suspicious interaction with the company. After finding an ad the company had placed on EquipmentTraderOnline.com, the consumer contacted the company expressing interest in a bulldozer. The representative from Superior Heavy Machinery sent the consumer paperwork claiming that the cost of the machinery – $25,000 – would have to be wired to its parent company in England, Atlas Darius Group, before it would be delivered. The consumer had suspicions and contacted BBB. A Google search for Atlas Darius Group brings up no results and BBB believes this is another fictitious entity. Though there is an Atlas Group in England, BBB has no reason to believe they are associated with Superior Heavy Machinery.

“The amount of money in question is jaw-dropping, which is why we’re so pleased the consumer chose not to go through with this transaction,” ‘said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Had they done so, their money would be lost and likely unrecoverable.”

BBB has also reached out to alert law enforcement in the Duluth area and contacted two other sellers of heavy equipment in that region. The owner of one of those two businesses, also located in Duluth, said consumers from as far as Michigan and Denver have come to their store to inquire about equipment they saw advertised online by Superior Heavy Machinery. The business owner said he has never heard of a Superior Heavy Machinery.

“This is another excellent reminder not to wire money overseas or to people you don’t know,” added Badgerow.

To avoid falling victim to fraudulent online entities such as Superior Heavy Machinery, BBB advises the following:

  • Research the business at bbb.org.
  • Watch out for requests to wire money overseas – or domestically – or to place funds in escrow with a third-party company. Fraudulent online entities will often reference another company in an effort to appear more legitimate. Research these companies as well. If you can’t find any information on them, it could be a sign there’s a problem.
  • Don’t fall for offers that sound too good to be true. Have the salesperson send you written materials; take the time to do your research and don’t allow yourself to be pressured.
  • Don’t be dazzled by a fancy website. Remember, creating websites is fairly easy. Be sure to verify that the company has a track record. Be leery of companies that just “pop up” on radar.

For the latest fraud alerts, consumer news and free Business Reviews, visit www.bbb.org.

 

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 


 

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) says area consumers are reporting they’re receiving illegal marketing calls that display their own phone number on caller ID. Though it’s natural to be curious about such calls, BBB advises the public to ignore the calls or let them go to voicemail – and then delete the messages.

“This is another clever ruse scammers have devised to get people to answer their phones,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “You look down, you see your own number on caller ID…obviously you want to know what it’s all about. We’re advising people to override that instinct.”

Since the start of summer, Better Business Bureaus across the country have been hearing from harried consumers who are confused – and annoyed – by these calls, which are often dialed by computerized calling centers.

Here’s how the scam works: Your phone rings and you see your name and phone number pop up on caller ID. If you answer, a computerized message claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates, which of course, means they will require your credit card number. In some cases, consumers are informed they can supposedly opt-out of future calls by pressing “1.” People who do so can count on receiving more calls of this nature from other shady telemarketing firms. Any action consumers take tells fraudsters that a phone number is ‘good,’ and that number is added to phone lists which scammers then sell to other scammers. In any case, these promises of lowering your credit card interest rates are not legitimate.

The practice of using technology to alter or disguise the true number of an incoming telephone call is known as “spoofing,” and its use is growing among criminals who also use this technique to pretend they are calling from a well-known company or government agency. By hijacking the names and phone numbers of organizations with which you are familiar, the callers attempt to gain your trust in hopes they can trick you into handing over personal or financial information.

Per FTC rules, telemarketing sales calls with recorded messages are generally illegal unless you have given the company written permission to call you. Some prerecorded messages are permitted — for example, messages that are purely informational. That means you may receive calls to let you know your flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment, or messages about a delayed school opening. Prerecorded messages from a business contacting you to collect a debt also are also permitted, but messages offering to sell you services to reduce your debt are barred.

Other exceptions include political calls and calls from certain health care providers. For example, pharmacies are permitted to use prerecorded messages to provide prescription refill reminders. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.

“The most ingenious aspect of these ‘spoofing’ calls is the lack of information available to consumers,” added Badgerow. “If they report the issue to the FTC, what are they to report – their own phone numbers?”

Nevertheless, BBB has confirmed the FTC does want to hear about these calls and other suspect robocalls. People can file complaints by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. The FTC is interested in the time and date the call (or calls) occurred and what product is being offered.

Before responding to unsolicited phone calls, BBB advises:

Never give out any financial information – If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone. It’s best to end calls that make you uncomfortable or that you’re not sure about and follow up with your bank or financial institution – or government agency – directly.

Don’t rely on caller ID – Remember, scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses or organizations – or even from your own phone number. Caller ID is a helpful feature, but it’s far from foolproof. Keep your guard up.

Trust your instincts – If something doesn’t seem right to you, end the call and report your experience to BBB, by calling 800-646-6222 or visiting bbb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 


 

 

Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been hearing lots of complaints about various fun runs that have been cancelled with short notice, often with no refunds offered. Last week, BBB of Greater Cleveland reported on a 5K Foam Fest that was cancelled with just four days’ notice. An email to paid participants said “Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide you with a refund.” A similar event scheduled for August in St. Paul was also cancelled. The race website says they have ceased operations as of July 17. Another race company has offered Foam Fest participants a discount code for future theme races.

These 5K Foam Fest events were to be put on by Round House Racing Team, which is based in Utah. Since the cancellation was announced, BBB Utah has received 90 complaints from participants looking for refunds of the $45-75 registration fees they were charged. BBB is processing those complaints now, and an Alert was added to the company’s BBB Business Review.

This cancellation news came just a month after Runners’ World reported that the Electric Foam 5K had shut down after numerous race cancellations and an F rating with BBB for its parent company, Color Mania 5K. A number of BBBs and at least one national media outlet had been investigating the cancelled Electric Foam 5Ks when the company announced it was closing down all the events. Some participants received refunds through Groupon. The company’s website said it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you are thinking about participating in a themed fun run, here are some BBB tips:

  • Do your research. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review and search online for additional information before signing up.
  • Understand the terms and conditions. In some cases, promoters say on their websites that they don’t offer refunds, but many consumers don’t read the fine print before hitting “I agree” to long online documents.
  • Check the local venue. Contact the park or other venue to confirm that the event is scheduled.
  • Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot.
  • Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.
  • Check out the charity. Most fun runs are for-profit, but if the promoters claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, check it out on give.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to more famous charities.

For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org and for the latest, check out our blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Note: Groupon and Facebook are BBB Accredited Businesses.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

Summer is a great time for getaways, but while you’re on vacation, criminals are still hard at work. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) warns consumers that they can find themselves tripped up by their own vacation plans if they don’t first take some precautions.

“Scammers never stop thinking, so consumers have to be looking ahead too,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “The stakes are always high.”

According to Javelin Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Study, more than 13 million Americans had their identities stolen last year, and it cost an average of $3,500 to fix related problems. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), ID theft has surpassed drug trafficking to become the most prevalent crime in the nation.

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota advises consumers to be on the lookout for fraud in all of its forms, particularly technology-based schemes. Here are steps people setting out on vacation can take to protect themselves:

Keep an eye on your credit cards – When standing in line at a ticket counter or restaurant, don’t leave your credit card in plain view. Someone can snap a photo of it over your shoulder and use the information fraudulently.

Copy vital cards and documents – It’s a good idea to keep a record of your credit card, passport and other important numbers – in a safe place – in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen. Leave identity documents and cards that you don’t need at home. Make sure you keep a record of customer service numbers in case you run into a problem while you’re out of town.

Check receipts during vacation and after – When you get home, go through your bank and credit card statements to look for any unauthorized charges. If something is amiss, contact your financial institution immediately.

Manage your mail and newspaper delivery online – Before leaving town, visit www.usps.com/manage-your-mail to have your mail held while you’re away. It’s a good idea to do the same thing with the daily newspaper and ask a neighbor to collect any packages shipped special delivery.

Be careful with social media – Make sure nobody in your family announces that you’re going away for an awesome vacation. If your account settings are public, people you might not want to have that information can easily access it. Always be careful when posting photos from out of town for the same reason. Be sure you’re clear about your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and remember, people talk. There will be plenty of time to post your fun photos when you’ve returned from your trip.

Don’t get skimmed – Always inspect the card reader slot before using a standalone ATM or gas pump. Law enforcement agencies warn that criminals can place a fake card slot cover on these machines to enable them to capture customers’ financial information.

If you plan to use your credit cards while away, it may also be a good idea to contact your credit card provider or bank ahead of time. In an effort to prevent losses from fraud, financial institutions may refuse some credit card transactions from out of state if they do not match your typical spending pattern. Letting your credit card provider and bank know when you are leaving town – and returning – and where you are going might prevent a hold from being placed on your credit or debit card.

For more helpful tips, the latest consumer news and free Business Reviews, visit www.bbb.org

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 


Almost a year to the date from when they hit the Upper Midwest last summer, suspicious travel offers are once again landing in area mailboxes. Consumers in our area are contacting Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) to say they’ve been offered two round-trip airline tickets from Cheap Tickets – although a disclaimer on the mailer says “This promotion is not sponsored by or affiliated with Cheap Tickets.” BBB is advising people to watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and be aware, based on the Cheap Tickets distinction alone, there is likely much more to this offer than meets the eye.

“Mailings like these have been going around for the last few years,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Experience has shown us these offers always come with strings attached and consumers trying to redeem their tickets – or travel vouchers – find the process is anything but straightforward.”

The BBB employee who received this mailing secret-shopped the company via telephone recently and the representative that answered identified the company as Grand Travel Worldwide, which purportedly offers discount travel services. As stated in a disclaimer on the company’s mailing, the company’s customer representative said people have to attend a 90-minute seminar at a Twin Cities-area hotel to receive their travel vouchers. They must also bring their spouse or partner and a valid credit card.

Though the representative said repeatedly there is no obligation to purchase anything, the company passed through the Spokane, Washington area last fall and attendees of seminars in that area reported rude behavior and poor customer service to the BBB in that region.

A review of the company’s mailing reveals that ‘Certain restrictions apply” and “Taxes, deposit, fees and/or surcharges are the responsibility of the recipient.” The mailing also says “Because previous attempts to reach you have been unsuccessful, this will serve as your final notification. If (we) do not hear from you within 10 days these travel vouchers will be given to an alternate.” However, the BBB employee who received this mailing said no other attempts had been made to reach them. A disclaimer very similar to this one appeared on the travel mailings which hit our area last year.  There is also a disclaimer which says, “Promotion may be canceled at any time.”

“There are a lot of unknowns here and that always gets our wheels turning,” added Badgerow. “Past offers similar to this one have led to headaches; people being pressured to enroll in pricey travel clubs or finding themselves beset by hidden charges and poor customer service.”

Grand Travel Worldwide’s customer service representative directed the BBB staffer to the website “Tripz4U.com” for more information on the company. However, it offers little in the way of additional details. BBB is currently developing a file on this company.

Here are some BBB tips to avoid suspicious travel offers:

  • Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re feeling pressured or if a company representative asks you to make a decision ‘now,’ they may not be a company you want to transact with.
  • Never give your credit card number, Social Security number or bank account information to pay for fees, taxes, or shipping costs for anything that you may have ‘won’ or are getting for ‘free.’ If you have to pay something to collect a prize, you haven’t won anything.
  • Ask a lot of questions and get all the details. Make sure you’re clear on contract terms and all stipulations.
  • Do the math. Monthly fees add up over time. Also, make sure you understand what you will need to do should you sign an agreement and then decide to cancel within three business days, per the FTC’s 3-day Cooling Off Rule.
  • After attending a travel club seminar, check your bank statements and credit cards for unauthorized charges.
  • If a company name is provided, go to bbb.org and research the business.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

 

 

The installation of a home security system is much more common than in years past. In fact, many newer homes come already equipped with them. Not only can a security system provide a line of defense against intruders, it can, in some cases, help lower insurance premiums as well as help ensure personal safety and the safety of family members. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers some advice on things people should consider before signing an agreement with a home security company.

“Security systems can offer homeowners additional peace of mind, but people should always pay attention to warning signals when searching for the right company,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

A good place to start this process is to determine whether you are going to purchase the alarm or lease it. If you purchase the system, you’ll own the equipment outright. A leased system may cost less initially, but it won’t belong to you and could be removed from your home once you discontinue your service or switch companies.

Most alarm systems are linked to a central monitoring center. It’s a good idea to see if the company installing the alarm will be the one monitoring your system. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of the company providing monitoring services. You’ll want to research them as well at bbb.org.

Another good question to ask a salesperson is, ‘What is the process?’ For instance, when an alarm is triggered, some security firms call the homeowner first and only alert the authorities if no one answers or if the property owner confirms there’s a problem. Ask for their procedures in writing as far as exactly what will happen when your alarm goes off, so you know what to expect. The monthly cost of monitoring can vary, so it’s also worthwhile to get an idea of the market rate. Systems that are not monitored rely solely on a siren as a form of deterrent.

Since alarm systems are available in a wide range of prices and technologies, customers have a number of options to choose from. The most economical systems usually include a control panel, keypad, door and window sensors, and a siren. More advanced systems may include advanced keypad options, glass break sensors, and heat and carbon monoxide sensors. Some households only need the basics while others want the deluxe package – which now includes video security systems so that homeowners can actually see what’s happening inside their house. Decide which options best suit your needs.
In recent years more and more households have switched from traditional landlines to cell phones and Internet-based lines. Making a switch midway through your contract may affect your alarm service. Ask the sales representative what your options are in the event you decide to discontinue the use of a landline.

It’s also important to know that most companies will require you to sign anywhere from a 24 to 60 month contract for monitoring. This is especially true if they installed the alarm system. Consumers who cancel before their contract expires are often subject to hefty cancellation fees. Before you sign up with anyone, be sure to ask how long your contract is for and what the cancellation policies are. In discussions with your sales representative, ask what would happen if the company were to be bought out. Also, don’t rely on oral promises; get everything in writing.

Furthermore, be aware that it is a common practice within this industry to use “evergreen contracts.” If proper notice has not been given, an evergreen contract automatically renews upon expiration. Companies often require consumers to provide notice of their intent to discontinue service at least 30 days in advance. It is the consumer’s responsibility to know when the contract expires and to give notice by the cut-off date stipulated in the contract. If you end up signing an evergreen contract, it’s a good idea to place a label in a visible area near the alarm to remind you when the contract expires and when the cancellation must be made.

Other things to consider:

  • Alarm companies frequently send sales teams to canvass neighborhoods in search of new customers. If you already have a home security system and the sales representative tells you that your service is about to expire, don’t take their word for it. Contact your alarm company and verify the expiration date on your contract. If the company claims they are acting on behalf of your current alarm company, verify that as well.
  • It’s a good idea to ask for identification. A reputable salesperson will provide you with all the information you request, including ID and a business card. It’s always a good idea to contact the company directly to ensure the person on your doorstep is an employee.
  • Does the sales person have a solicitor’s license from the city you’re in?
  • Ask about false alarms – will you be charged?
  • Avoid snap decisions. Tell the salesperson you will consider the offer and get back to him or her after doing your research. Watch out for high-pressure sales pitches.
  • Always research companies at bbb.org.

Summer is a great time to take that long-overdue vacation or make much-needed home repairs, but as the weather heats up, so do scams. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) is warning consumers about these popular summer schemes.

Don’t let a scam ruin your vacation. Fake travel agents and websites are known for touting too-good-to-be-true deals in the hopes of getting your money in return. Whether it’s a fake timeshare rental or a falsely promised Disney vacation, don’t let a vacation scam take you for a ride. Make sure the offer is legitimate by checking bbb.org first. If there is no BBB Business Review on the company, dig deeper: Google the phone number or website to see if others have reported problems.

Keep your belongings safe during your move. Summer is the peak time of year for changing residencies, and unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of the busy season. Always research the company and check out the mover’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate (or binding), and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Also remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer, which may cost you more in the end.

Beware of summer concert ticket scams. Before paying for concert tickets online, make sure the seller is reputable. Oftentimes, phony sellers will trick consumers into wiring money with no intention of sending real tickets. Most concert venues now allow ticket holders to print tickets from personal computers, which also gives scammers the opportunity to sell the same ticket over and over to unsuspecting consumers. Be wary of sellers who: offer a sad tale as to why they cannot use the tickets; only accept cash; want the money wired or transferred through a prepaid account; and/or pressure you to act quickly.

Be wary of high pressure door-to-door sales tactics. Many legitimate companies use door-to-door sales, and various city ordinances regulate solicitors to protect residents from unscrupulous individuals. However, consumers need to watch for individuals who try to work their way around the system to line their pockets. Many door-to-door salesmen offer deals for everything from driveway paving to air conditioning repair to security systems. Before saying yes, get all promises in writing, including start and finish dates. Never sign a contract that has an open-ended completion date or blank spaces

Beware of job scams that can turn a hot summer cold. Finding summer employment is a top priority for most college and high school students. Don’t let the seasonal job hunt turn into a huge waste of time and money. Always be wary of employers who require fees for training and background checks, or who tout “no experience needed.” BBB considers these red flags for employment scams.

Find out more about scams and sign up for scam alerts at BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org and for the latest, check out our blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

 

 

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ®  (BBB) is warning area consumers to watch out for a scam involving a postcard purportedly alerting recipients to ‘an unclaimed reward of $100 in gift savings good at Walmart or Target.’ The mail piece does not have a return address but directs people to call 844-633-9988 to claim their supposed prizes. BBB is advising the public to either shred these mailings or report them to the FTC (877-382-4357), your local post office or both

“We’ve all heard the saying about never looking a gift horse in the mouth,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “However, we believe this ‘offer’ has more to do with the other end of the horse in question.”

This bogus offer was brought to BBB’s attention by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Variations of this particular scam have popped up sporadically nationwide for the last few years. Some notifications have been delivered via text message and others through email. People may also receive phone calls claiming they’re the recipient of such prizes. In every case like this to date, Target and Walmart headquarters have stated these postcards/communiqués were not issued by them.

A Better Business Bureau employee called the number on the postcard and tried to claim a prize. The representative – who claimed to represent a company called Care Express – had a heavy foreign accent and stated that a ‘one-time shipping/activation fee of $3.95’ would need to be paid via credit card to receive the alleged gift savings. At that point, the BBB employee disconnected the call. During the call, the company representative also refused to provide his location.

“So you have an unknown entity asking people to provide their credit card information for a nebulous offer which may not exist – or likely has little or no value, if it does,” added Badgerow. “It would be an understatement to say we’ve heard better offers.”

Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to:

·         Never give out personal or financial information to unknown parties over the phone, through the mail or via the Internet.

·         Always research offers before making any decisions. Visit bbb.org or call 1-800-646-6222.

·         Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.

If you’ve already provided your credit card number to the individuals behind this offer, contact your card issuer or financial institution immediately – as well as your local authorities – and monitor your statements closely.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

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Vacations can sometimes come with a hefty price tag. Rather than just planning on overspending, it’s always a good idea to be proactive and plan ahead. This summer, do your best to enjoy a vacation without depleting your funds or adding additional debt. Before scheduling your trip, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) urges people to start by making sure that the deals they’ve found are legitimate.

Here are some additional ways you can manage your budget when preparing for your next getaway:

Don’t rely on credit cards! Avoid the debt trap by saving up ahead of time for your vacations, and pay as you go whenever possible. For larger purchases, such as airfare and hotel rooms, using a credit card provides added protections if problems arise, but make it a goal to pay off those expenses when your next statement arrives.

Prepare a budget – Planning is important. Make a little room in your budget by allowing for unexpected occurrences and emergencies.

Be resourceful – Check the State Tourism Board or local Chamber of Commerce website where you will be vacationing for suggestions and links to recreational ideas. See if there are any money-saving discount (such as Groupon) offers in the city you’re visiting. Or consider a “staycation,” a vacation where you visit local or regional attractions but sleep in your own bed at night.

Timing is everything – If you do plan on traveling outside of your immediate area, aim for the off-season. Prices are usually substantially lower, and you won’t have to deal with the crowds. Off-season depends on where you are: summer can be a terrific time to visit a ski resort, where you can get nice rooms and all the non-skiing amenities for a fraction of the cost of a winter trip.

Short and sweet – You don’t have to go on a two-week trip in order to feel refreshed after a vacation. Take a long weekend or two, and maximize your itinerary by planning activities well ahead of time.

Avoid unnecessary costs – Don’t find yourself trapped by additional charges or fees. For example, avoid hotel room phones, which often carry hefty surcharges. Pack as lightly as possible to avoid extra baggage charges.

Pack your own meals to-go – When you’re on the road, travel with a cooler and purchase snacks ahead of time.

Use Public Transportation – Choose a destination with lots to see and do, and simply walk from place to place. Also, consider using local bus or transit service rather than driving and parking.

To help ensure a successful and enjoyable summer vacation, it’s always a good idea to first research the businesses behind the travel offers you’re considering at bbb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

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When you’re planning an event, it’s always good to start planning ahead of time. There are often dozens – if not hundreds –  of details to corral, so the more lead time you give yourself, the better off you’ll be. You don’t want to rush when it comes to your special occasion. Getting a jump on planning your event also gives you the time you need to research businesses and vendors, letting you find companies that best suit your needs – and avoid getting scammed in the process. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota® (BBB) offers some practical tips to people getting ready to plan their event.

“Every year, we hear from people who didn’t research businesses ahead of time,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “In some cases, it’s simply a minor inconvenience, but in others it’s led to special days being ruined unnecessarily.”

Though problems can arise with even the best companies, BBB is here to assist you every step of the way. To help you find reliable businesses and ensure your event is a success, here are some good tips to follow:

·         Research all facilities, suppliers and vendors at bbb.org.

·         Watch out for estimates that are far lower than you can find elsewhere in the marketplace. Some less than scrupulous operators will throw out low quotes just to get your business. However, when it comes time to deliver, they may leave you in the lurch.

·         Get everything in writing. A contract protects you and clearly outlines the obligations of the parties involved. If there are any changes to the agreement, make sure they are noted in the contract.

·         Gather as much information as possible. Make sure you have a physical address for all vendors and the best contact information if you need to reach them on an emergency basis – including a phone number and an email address. If a business or vendor refuses to provide any of this information, watch out!

·         Be leery of situations where you’re asked to pay the full amount for something upfront. Most event sites, clothiers and vendors will ask for a deposit, with the bulk of the contract to be paid later. If you’re told a price is ‘only good’ for a very short period of time or something about an offer doesn’t feel right, it may be a good idea to go elsewhere.

·         Ask for references and speak to previous clients. Also, research online reviews to get a sense of previous customers’ experiences with businesses you’re considering.

·         Consider making purchases closer to the date of your event with a credit card. This will offer you protections if products or services aren’t delivered or if merchandise is received in damaged condition.

·         Always comparison shop and get multiple estimates. This will give you an idea of the price ranges and help you make a budget.

·         If you experience problems, it’s always best to try to resolve them directly with the vendor first, but if that’s unsuccessful, file a complaint at bbb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.