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.

 

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is again calling for nominations for the premier award in business ethics – the BBB Torch Award for Ethics. The Torch Awards for Ethics recognize upstanding companies which display outstanding ethics in their dealings with customers, employees, vendors and their community. All for-profit businesses of any size, owned or operated in Minnesota or North Dakota, are eligible. Nominees must be in good standing with the BBB; however BBB Accreditation is not a requirement to compete for the award. The nomination deadline is May 6, 2014.

“Our Torch Awards for Ethics shine a light on those companies that set an example for all of us,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They recognize market leaders that stand out in their industries and demonstrate excellence not only to their customers, but also their employees, vendors and communities.”

Nominations for the 2014 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics are open to the public. Companies can be nominated online by visiting thefirstbbb.org/nominate or by sending the company name, contact name, address, phone number, and email along with the nominator’s name and phone number to: BBB, Attn: Mackenzie Kelley, 220. S. River Ridge Circle, Burnsville, MN 55337; or by faxing the information to 651-695-2487. Business owners or employees may also nominate their own firms.

Entrants are judged on six areas of their business: Leadership Commitment to Ethics; Communications of Ethical Practices; Organizational Commitment to Ethical Practice; Organizational Commitment to Performance Management Practices; Organizational Commitment to Ethical Human Resource Practices; and Organizational Commitment to the Community.

“This event is the highlight of our year,” added Badgerow. “It always serves as a reminder of all the exemplary businesses we have in Minnesota and North Dakota.”

Nominated companies will receive an official entry form from the BBB. An independent panel of judges will decide the award finalists and recipients. Winners will be announced live at the BBB’s 2014 Torch Awards for Ethics ceremony in October.

An estate sale is often held when a person is looking to liquidate and sell personal items within a home. Estate sales can take place during stressful or emotional situations such as a divorce, the death of a family member or the need to downsize before a move. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises consumers to do their research and choose a reputable estate sale business when deciding how best to liquidate personal property.

“Each business’s services vary, so consumers should ask about all of the details of the sale and if there will be any additional fees,” says Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “This process can be quite stressful; still, people have to be sure their interests are being protected.”

Consumers and businesses should have clear expectations when an agreement is drawn up to conduct an estate sale. Many estate sale businesses offer a variety of services before and after a sale, whether it is an initial consultation, setting up displays for the sale, or cleaning out a home after an estate sale has concluded. The BBB has received complaints from consumers about estate sale businesses, generally regarding the quality of the services offered or alleging that the details of the sale were not clearly explained.

One claim that generates confusion for consumers is the statement, “Licensed, Bonded and Insured” which some estate sale businesses advertise. A consumer might be led to believe a business which appraises personal property has to be licensed to do business – but this is not the case. Estate sale businesses do not have to be licensed in Minnesota or North Dakota. When deciding which business is right to conduct your sale, be sure to inquire about their background in personal property appraisals and ask them how they determine current marketplace values.

Each estate sale business has different policies and procedures when conducting a sale. A recurring pattern the BBB has noted in consumer complaints involves miscommunications between businesses and consumers in regards to the timetable for receiving a final check from a sale. In some cases, consumers have misinterpreted contract language about the date they were to receive their check; in others, the business did not fully explain their policies in regard to issuing the final check. The BBB advises consumers to study contracts closely to ensure all financial aspects of the sale are clearly understood and acceptable.

Consumers and businesses also need to be aware of potential legal issues when discussing an estate sale. If a consumer wants to have an estate sale for a deceased family member’s items, it is important to be aware of any legally binding documents which may determine what items are sold at an estate sale. A reputable dealer may even ask for proof of a consumer’s responsibility to contract for the sale. It is important for the business and consumer to address any and all legal issues before signing a contract for an estate sale.

Donation and clean out services are good ways for consumers to sort through or give away any remaining items after a sale. Consumers should also ask the estate sale business for an itemized inventory list of the items sold with the price each item was sold at. This helps consumers track sales on their items and calculate the total profit from the sale.

Always visit bbb.org when looking for a reputable estate sale business to liquidate your personal property.