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.

 


With temperatures finally rebounding, solicitors offering asphalt services and magazine subscriptions – among other products and services – will be making the rounds and may well make their way to your front doorstep. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) reminds people to stay alert and keep in mind that these sellers are venturing onto your home turf; if you don’t like how a given sales pitch is going, take one step back and close the door.

Though many door-to-door salespeople operate honestly and represent reputable businesses, there are others who are looking only to make a sale and move on as quickly as possible, regardless of whether or not what they’re telling people is accurate or not. BBB recommends the following on how to handle door-to-door solicitors:

Ask for identification. A reputable seller will provide you with all the information you request, including ID and a business card.

Verify the individual and the company. If you are interested in a product or service outlined by a door-to-door solicitor, get everything in writing including price, contract duration and all other terms and conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to him or her. Then research the company yourself and contact them directly to verify the salesperson is an employee. Also, be sure to visit the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

Inquire about licensing. Have they secured a solicitor’s license from the city they’re doing business in?

Read the contract closely. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions before signing your name.

Don’t be pressured. Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and be aware that anything you sign could construe a contract.

Do the Math. Paying $30 to $40 per month for magazine subscriptions may not sound like much, but if the contract runs for two years – or longer – charges can add up quickly. Make sure you have an understanding of what the average subscription costs for any magazine that interests you. Most magazines have detachable postcards inside with the lowest rates available.

Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. Along with a receipt, salespeople should also include a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.

Listen carefully. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will do everything they can to close the deal immediately, and even make special offers to entice you. Listen to their tone. Are they speaking more loudly as they get deeper into their sales pitch? Are they ignoring you despite your saying that you’re not interested? If so, find a way to end the conversation quickly.

Stand strong. Do not invite unsolicited salespeople into your home. If you do allow a salesperson inside and decide during the presentation that you are not interested in making a purchase, simply ask them to leave. If the salesperson refuses to leave, tell them you will call the police and follow through if they don’t leave immediately.

Steer clear of asphalt firms that say they have leftover asphalt from another job. A classic tactic of less-than-reputable asphalt firms is to tell consumers they have extra asphalt leftover from another job and will perform the work at minimal cost. Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. They rarely have leftover material. It’s also a good idea to get multiple estimate before choosing any contractor.

Victims of door-to-door solicitors can file a complaint with BBB at bbb.org, as well as with local law enforcement.

The mission of the 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 the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

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Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is receiving reports from around the country about unsolicited faxes business owners are receiving. The faxes, sent by Key Funding – which purports to operate out of Bloomington, Minnesota – claim that business owners have been “pre-approved for a capital infusion of $48,862.04 with underwriting authorization of up to $250,000.” BBB advises business owners to discard such faxes, as nothing about the company – or this offer – adds up. Instead, it has all the hallmarks of an advance fee loan scheme.

“Though this offer might seem like a life preserver to a struggling business, we believe it’s an anchor,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “BBB’s experience with these types of offers is that after business owners and consumers, whom schemes like this also target wire advance fees to lenders, the lenders either request more money or cease contact, leaving victims without a loan and only more debt.”

Key Funding was brought to the attention of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota by BBB of Akron (OH), after a business owner in that region had received the fax from Key Funding. BBB of Western Michigan was also alerted to this fax and performed some research which revealed that Key Funding is not located at the address they are claiming in Bloomington. Building management confirmed there is no business with that name operating at that address.

“This is not how ethical companies operate,” added Badgerow. “Legitimate lenders will never guarantee a loan before you apply or before they’ve checked your credit status as well as your references.”

To avoid advance fee loan schemes, businesses should:

·         Never pay for the promise of a loan. It’s illegal for companies doing business by phone in the U.S. to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.

·         Contact BBB (bbb.org) before following up on a suspect offer or solicitation.

·         Ignore any ads, faxes or phone calls which guarantee a loan in exchange for a fee in advance. Remember that legitimate lenders never guarantee or say that you will receive a loan before you apply or before they have checked out your credit status or contacted your references, especially if you have bad credit or no credit record.

·         Always play it safe. Don’t give your credit card, bank account, or Social Security numbers to unknown parties over the phone, by fax, or via the Internet.

·         Stay away from requests to make payments to an individual for a loan; no legitimate lending organization would make such a request. Also, watch out for requests to wire money or transfer funds through prepaid credit cards or via Green Dot MoneyPak. These are all signs the loan you’ve been offered is not legitimate.

·         Look for low-cost assistance. It’s a good idea to try to solve your debt problems with your creditors as soon as you realize you won’t be able to make your payments. It’s often in everyone’s best interest to try to reach an acceptable arrangement. If you can’t resolve your credit problems yourself or need additional help, you may want to contact a credit counseling service. There are nonprofit organizations in every state that counsel and educate individuals and families on debt problems, budgeting and using credit wisely. There is little or no cost for these services. Universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities may also offer low or no-cost credit counseling programs. Check the white pages of your telephone directory for a service near you.

If you live in the U.S. and think you’ve been a victim of an advance fee loan scam, report it to the FTC online at ftc.gov or by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

For the latest consumer news and free BBB Business Reviews, visit bbb.org

The mission of the 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 the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

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Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers nationwide about a significant uptick in fraudulent pet breeder/seller websites falsely claiming addresses in the Twin Cities area. Three recent cases where consumers thought they were dealing with legitimate kennels led to individuals being swindled out of hundreds of dollars and left without the pet they thought they were adopting. BBB reminds the public that it’s very easy to create authentic-looking websites and scammers are good at telling people what they want to hear.

“Preparing to buy a pet for yourself or your family can be a very exciting time,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It can also be expensive, so scammers know they can get people’s attention by claiming to offer pets for free or at a large discount. Unfortunately, these ‘offers’ are just hooks to try to reel in more victims.”

BBB has uncovered three bogus entities involved in the recent cases of fraud: Fenando Pomeranians, Happy Husky and Maliz French Bulldogs – also doing business as Manuh French Bulldogs. All three entities have authentic-looking websites and claim to be located in the Twin Cities. However, though they have local phone numbers, BBB has determined none of them are legitimate and any pets featured on their websites are likely cribbed from the websites of real kennels.

Pet scams begin when fraudsters – posing as a legitimate kennel or breeder – create a fake website or place an ad offering free or inexpensive puppies. They usually communicate solely through email. Consumers are often taken in by the sincerity of the scammers. The con artists may say that they don’t care about money and just want to find a good home for their beloved puppies. Generally, as the scheme unfolds, scammers collect payment from hopeful consumers via wire transfer. In cases where puppies are advertised as free, scammers will usually ask for fees to cover last-minute transport or airport fees. Sadly, people who fall into any of these schemes wind up without a pet and out any money they paid or wired away.

“These scammers are greedy,” added Badgerow. “After collecting payment they will often ask for more funds, citing unexpected factors or costs. They are remorseless and devious.”

BBB offers this advice when considering the purchase of a pet:

·         Don’t be fooled by a slick website. Scammers can easily create professional-looking websites which lure you in with copied pictures of adorable puppies from legitimate sites.

·         Do your research at bbb.org . Ask the breeder for references.

·         Visit the breeder. It is essential to visit the breeder at their home to see the entire litter, the care and conditions provided to the puppies prior to making your purchase.

·         Watch out for breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than how soon they will get paid. Make sure you have clear expectations — ideally in writing — of how and when payment will be made.

·         Be especially wary of any breeder who demands that you wire money or insists you can only pay with a prepaid credit card.

-      Beware of ads with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors; many pet scams originate from overseas, particularly Africa, so scammers usually do not have a good grasp of the English language.

-      If purchasing a pedigreed pet, be sure the breeder provides documentation of the parents’ registration with the American Kennel Club. This ensures that the pet is in fact a legitimate purebred animal. It is then your responsibility to register your pet with the American Kennel Club.

·         Report a scam. Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to their local authorities, as well as your BBB.

The mission of the 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 the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

 

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Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) and AARP North Dakota are once again sponsoring free shredding events as part of Secure Your ID Day. At these events, which will take place Saturday, April 26, in Bismarck, Fargo and Jamestown, area residents and small businesses are invited to shred and properly dispose of up to two boxes of sensitive documents and compact discs free of charge. The three events, which run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., are part of a series of Secure Your ID Day events being hosted by BBBs across the country.

“Secure Your ID Day is a wonderful way for consumers and small business owners to take action and reduce their risk of falling victim to identity theft,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “We are proud to be a sponsor of these events each spring and fall.”

The goal of Secure Your ID Day is to educate consumers about identity theft, which – for the 14th straight year – topped the list of complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2013. Of the two million complaints they received last year, 14 percent were related to identity theft, according to their annual report. The highest reported age group for identity theft was 20-29, comprising 20 percent of those complaints.

            BBB Secure Your ID Day Details  

Who: BBB and AARP North Dakota, along with local partners The Bismarck Tribune, The Forum, Recall, Wells Fargo (Bismarck and Fargo); The Jamestown Sun, RSVP+ND South Central, MinnKota Secured Document Destruction Services and First Community Credit Union (Jamestown). 

What: Free document shredding and distribution of tips and resources for protecting your identity.

When: Saturday, April 26, 2014, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Bismarck: Wells Fargo, 1050 E. Interstate Ave.

              Fargo: Wells Fargo, 2501 13th Ave S.

                          Jamestown: First Community Credit Union, 111 9th Street SW

BBB and AARP ND staff will also be on hand to provide tips and fact sheets on how to avoid identity theft. There will also be a drawing at each Secure Your ID Day location for a free shredder from AARP ND and Better Business Bureau.

For more information on Secure Your ID Day and identity theft prevention measures for consumers and businesses, visit bbb.org/minnesota/get-involved/shred-event-secure-your-id-day/. AARP has also launched a new Fraud Watch Network (www.fraudwatchnetwork.com) to help its members and others fight identity theft and fraud and give them access to information about how to protect themselves and their families.

The mission of the 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 the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.