With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) advises people looking to start new relationships to watch out for romance scams. This is a scheme wherein unscrupulous individuals look to defraud people by pretending to be a love interest and playing on emotions for their own financial gain. This type of scam usually occurs via email or social media, but can also happen through established online dating services.

“Romance scams are a double whammy,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They hit victims financially and emotionally, and the consequences are often devastating.”

Romance schemes can target anyone, but often target older individuals, those who are new to the Internet or not as tech-savvy. The relationship generally develops online or over the phone, when people either respond to fake online profiles or are contacted by a scammer in response to an ad they posted. Conversations begin online and things can progress quickly, which is why it’s important to take things slow. Scammers prey on emotion and they’re good at telling people what they want – or hope – to hear.

A huge red flag for people seeking relationships online is any request for funds. Sometimes scammers who have struck up virtual relationships will ask for money to buy an airplane ticket so the couple can “finally” meet. However, these requests are nothing more than a gateway to further requests, as the scammer comes up with reasons they can’t make the trip, such as an illness, a sick relative or supposedly losing their job. A good rule of thumb is to never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. Another good rule of thumb is to remember that someone who cares about you will not ask you to place yourself in financial jeopardy for them or put you in a difficult position.

People going online or using online dating services to meet romantic interests should be leery of:

People who ask to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service. Oftentimes, this allows fraudsters to perpetrate fraud without the dating site having a record of the encounter.

Anyone who declares their love for you without meeting you or knowing very little about you.

Individuals who prefer to communicate solely via email or over the phone. This is often the sign of someone who has a need or wishes to keep their true identity hidden.

Claims that a person cannot meet because they are traveling, stationed or working abroad. Dishonest people use distance as a tool and a means of keeping people at arm’s length. Scammers will also sometimes falsely claim a military affiliation in an effort to gain people’s trust.

Requests for money or credit card information. Any and all requests for loans or cash advances should be refused and prompt an immediate assessment of the person you’re communicating with. Red flags don’t come any bigger than this.

Someone who asks for sensitive personal information. Remember, a scammer’s goal might also be to steal your identity. Be protective of your personal information and watch out for suspicious emails that could have links which contain malware designed to compromise your computer.

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 IRS is now processing tax returns, and the agency continues to emphasize the convenience and security of their online services for taxpayers. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some helpful tips for the public as tax season kicks into gear.

“Most of us know the anxiety level only grows the longer we put off doing our personal taxes,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It’s better to be proactive. If you’re not comfortable preparing your own taxes, be sure to find a qualified professional to assist you.”

BBB offers the following tips on how to find a trustworthy tax preparer:

  • Ask around. Get referrals from friends and family on who they use and research free BBB Business Reviews on tax preparers and tax preparation services at bbb.org.
  • Consider accessibility. Some tax preparation services wind down their operations shortly after the April 15 tax deadline. In case the IRS finds errors, or in case of an audit, you need to be sure you know how to contact your tax preparer throughout the year.
  • Bigger isn’t always better. Be wary of tax preparation services that promise larger refunds than the competition, and avoid tax preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
  • Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney, an enrolled agent or a certified E-file provider.
  • Make sure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A PTIN must be obtained by all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS.
  • Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with your state’s Board of Accountancy (for CPA’s), the State Bar Association (for attorneys) or the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for enrolled agents.
  • Remember that a Paid Preparer is required by law to sign your return and fill in the preparer areas of the form. They should also include their appropriate identifying number on the return. In addition, the preparer must give you a copy of your return.
  • Read the contract carefully. Read contracts closely to ensure you understand issues such as how much it will cost for the service, how that cost will be affected if your tax preparation is more complicated and time consuming than expected and whether the tax preparer will represent you in case of an audit.
  • Don’t forget about Free File. If your adjusted gross income is $60,000 or less, Free File offers free Federal tax preparation and e-filing. Visit irs.gov/freefile to learn more.

The IRS says taxpayers will receive their tax refunds quicker by using e-file or Free File, with the direct deposit option.

BBB is also warning people about tax refund fraud, a form of identity theft where someone else fraudulently files a tax return in your name. This is a rapidly growing problem, one that is difficult to detect and can delay the tax refund you’re due. One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud is to file your tax return as soon as possible.

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 the start of the New Year, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota® (BBB) looks ahead to try and predict which nasty scam will pack the most punch in the coming months. Though perennial “least-favorites” such as sweepstakes and utility schemes are sure to be well-represented, BBB feels phony IRS calls will likely continue to set the pace when it comes to defrauding the public.

“This is a scam that knows no season and no boundaries,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Fraudsters can call from anywhere and use technology and people’s fears to trick and coerce them into making hard to trace payments.”

Phony IRS calls have become common nationwide and can target anyone, but often seem to focus on certain groups, such as foreign-born citizens.  Fraudsters claim an affiliation with the IRS and also use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. People contacted by these scammers say they are abusive and threaten arrest or even deportation if alleged tax debts are not paid immediately – usually via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. Others have received voicemail messages stating they must contact the IRS immediately. Some messages have claimed to be from the U.S. Marshals, threatening arrest if alleged tax debts are not paid in full.

BBB is advising the public that the IRS does not make such calls and initiates contact with taxpayers through the mail. Scammers also utilize technology to alter the information that appears on caller ID, so it may appear as though a call is originating from the IRS, when in fact the call is fraudulent.

The IRS website states they will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand payment without giving people the opportunity to question or appeal the debt in question.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

The IRS also states they don’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

If you receive one of these fraudulent IRS phone calls, BBB recommends you:

  • Hang up – Don’t provide any information over the phone. Call the IRS directly using the phone number found on their website or in the phone book.
  • Protect your personal information – Never give out any personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your Social Security number.
  • Contact the FCC – Let the Federal Communications Commission know about ID spoofing by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC or file a complaint at www.fcc.gov/complaints
  • Contact the FTC – File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

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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Scammers tried out some new tricks in 2014, but stuck to some old “classics” as well. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) looks back on 2014 and offers an informal list of the Top Ten scams from last year.

“You hate to use the word ambition when it comes to scammers, but they are creative and relentless,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They are also, often, professionals. It’s important for everyone to know who and what they’re up against.”

Though the list of scams reported to BBB and monitored by its staffers was long, these were the Top Ten scams in terms of their overall reach.

1)   Bogus IRS calls – Unknown callers falsely claim an affiliation with the IRS and tell intended victims they owe taxes and must make an immediate payment using a pre-paid debit card or via wire transfer. Scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest or even deportation. However, the IRS contacts people by mail in regard to unpaid taxes.

2)   The Caller ID Scam – 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. Any action consumers take, such as pressing 1 to ‘opt out,’  tells fraudsters that the phone number is ‘good,’ and that number is then added to lists which scammers sell to other scammers. And those promises of lowering your credit card interest rates? Not legitimate.

3)   Timeshare scams – Timeshare owners receive calls from individuals claiming to have secured buyers or renters for their timeshares. After receiving official-looking contracts, consumers are eventually informed they have to provide funds upfront to cover transfer fees, title or closing costs and/or taxes in order to close the deals, which aren’t real.

4)   Online Pet scams – People find websites claiming to offer purebred puppies for free or at very low prices. However, they’re told transfer fees have to be wired to release the puppy or payment has to be made to a third-party shipper. The funds are paid, generally via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards, but the pet never arrives.

5)   Mystery Shopping offers – People receive mailed solicitations, accompanied by sizable checks, to become mystery shoppers. Though the checks look legitimate, they’re bogus. Consumers should be aware that legitimate mystery shopping firms don’t operate in this manner.

6)   Tech Support Scam – You receive a call out of the blue saying there’s a problem with your computer. A ‘helpful’ expert offers to help you fix it and/or asks for your credit card information. Don’t play along! Cooperating could give scammers access to your computer and/or sensitive financial information. When there’s a problem with your computer, you call the expert – they don’t call you.

7)   Sweepstakes/Lottery solicitations – You receive a notice saying you’ve won a huge cash prize. All you have to do is pay taxes, insurance or fees and the “prize” will be yours. However, if you have to pay to claim your winnings, you haven’t won anything.

8)   Bogus postcard/Survey scams – Good news! You’ve been told you’ve won a $100 gift card from a major retailer or will get one for taking a short survey. The bad news? These ‘offers’ are fake and the people behind them just want your credit card number or personal information.

9)   Fake subscription renewal notices – Consumers receive subscription renewal notices promising the lowest rates on newspapers or magazines, but discover the notices are sent by a third-party. They also discover renewing directly through the periodical’s publisher costs less.

10)     Grant schemes – Usually these grant “notifications” come via the phone, but people may also receive them through mail and email. Individuals who receive them are told they’re either eligible for or have been awarded a government grant, but processing fees must first be paid. However, there are no processing fees for federal grants.

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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The holidays are here again, and with the price of gas lower than it’s been in years, it’s likely more people will choose to hit the road this holiday season. If you’re one of those travelers, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some basic tips to help keep you safe and maybe save you some money.

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

Be resourceful – Book hotel rooms in advance and consider exploring money-saving sites like Priceline or Hotels.com. See if there are any good discount (such as Groupon) offers in the city you’re visiting.

Avoid unnecessary costs – Don’t find yourself trapped by additional charges or fees. For example, avoid hotel room phones, which often carry hefty surcharges. When you’re on the road, travel with a cooler and purchase snacks ahead of time. It’s a lot cheaper than the hotel mini-fridge.

Create a car safety kit – Holiday driving often includes the threat of dangerous winter weather. Snow and ice can lead to accidents, car troubles, long delays and road closures. You can be ready for bad weather by creating your own safety kit. Basics for the kit include a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, radio, first aid kit, jumper cables, non-perishable foods like granola bars and nuts, bottled water, an ice scraper and warm gloves. Having a cellphone charger for your car is also a good idea.

Get a tune-up – If your car is due for a tune-up, take it in before making that long haul. At the very least, check the car’s fluid levels, wipers and tire pressure. Check the condition of your tires and, if you plan on driving through serious winter weather, consider getting snow tires.

Take BBB with you – When you’re away from home or in the midst of an emergency, it’s hard to know which businesses such as tow trucks and locksmiths you can trust. The good news is that free BBB Business Reviews are optimized for smartphones. Now you can easily find businesses you can trust when you’re on the go by visiting bbb.org.

Get an early start and take your time – The best way to fight holiday traffic is to give yourself some extra time to make the trip, and don’t speed. Also, if you’re caught speeding by law enforcement, that adds travel time and puts a dent in your holiday budget.

Drop the distractions – A lot of tragic accidents take place when people are talking on their cellphone or sending text messages. When you’re behind the wheel, don’t text and drive. Let incoming calls go to voicemail or hand your cellphone to a passenger and let them take the call. Also, don’t make or return calls – or send or read – text messages until you reach a safe spot off the road, such as a rest area or a gas station.

For the latest fraud alerts, consumer news and free BBB Business Reviews, visit 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.

 

Some people support their favorite charities and causes throughout the year, but many wait until the holidays to extend the spirit of the season to those in need in their communities and throughout the world. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some DOs and DON’Ts that apply year-round when it comes to charitable giving, and these tips will help ensure your donations reach their intended destinations this holiday season.

DON’T succumb to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, and if a telemarketer or person on your doorstep plays the guilt card things may not be what they seem. Well-run charities won’t impose on you or put you in a tough spot. They will welcome your donation just as much after you’ve had time to do your due diligence.

DO research the charity. Make sure you feel comfortable with how your money will be spent. Don’t just take the word of someone else; the most important action a donor can take before donating is to check the trustworthiness of the charity. BBB Wise Giving Alliance (give.org) evaluates charitable organizations on 20 holistic standards covering governance, effectiveness reporting, finances, appeal accuracy and other issues to assist donors in making informed giving decisions.

DON’T give out your credit card number over the phone. The days where you could give out sensitive financial information over the phone are over. With the number of fraudulent solicitors out there, you want to be sure your information – personal and financial – stays secure. Go directly to the website of the charity you’re supporting and make your donation there. Always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// or in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before making your donation.

DO be sure it’s the right charity. With so many similar-sounding organizations, names can blur in a donor’s mind. Many phony charities purposefully choose a name that sounds similar to more familiar, legitimate outfits. Do the legwork and make sure your gift reaches the group or cause you’re looking to support. Donors can research BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally soliciting charities for free anytime at give.org.

DON’T assume that the charity wants any item you donate. Worn out, unusable or unwanted goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of disposing of unacceptable donations. If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, visit a given charity’s website or call them directly and ask.

DO consider easy text-to-give options. BBB Mobile Giving Foundation makes it easy to give smaller donations (usually $10) to charities they monitor, including those providing relief to victims of famine and natural disasters the world over. Visit mobilegiving.org to learn more.

Lastly, if you’re planning on claiming your donations as tax deductions, verify the charities you’re supporting have received their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

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 fifth annual Small Business Saturday, which takes place November 29th this year, is a day designed to support and promote small businesses during the long and busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is helping to spread awareness of Small Business Saturday and encouraging businesses and consumers to participate.

Falling between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” Small Business Saturday can be a fun part of your holiday weekend schedule.  By staying local, you’ll support the small businesses that helped create the identity of your community. This yearly event is a great way to show your support for these local “mom and pop” shops that make your home feel like home.

BBB is working with American Express OPEN to assist in getting the word out about Small Business Saturday. Businesses benefit not only from increased customer awareness, but also from the many free marketing tools offered online by Small Business Saturday partners: United States Postal Service, Foursquare, Fed Ex Office, and Twitter. Free signage, shipping, ads, and more can be accessed online at facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday.

Some consumers also have the opportunity to take advantage of an American Express statement credit offer. American Express is offering card members the opportunity to get a $10 statement credit when they enroll their eligible American Express Card and then use it to spend $10 or more in a single in-store transaction at a qualifying small business location on Small Business Saturday. Registration is limited.

Shopping small is the theme of Small Business. Small businesses are the heart of our communities and everyone is invited to join the 200 organizations that have already teamed up with American Express OPEN in designating the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.

Remember to research companies for free at www.bbb.org, and for more information on Small Business Saturday, visit smallbusinesssaturday.com.

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 Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner, and some retailers have already announced at least some of their Black Friday deals. Though more and more stores are opening their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday – will remain one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering advice for people making plans to capitalize on Black Friday savings offers.

“Though the impact of Black Friday shopping might be at least somewhat diluted with some stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, we still believe it will be a day where many folks will focus their holiday shopping – and bargain-hunting – efforts,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales will increase by more than 4% this year. As always, retailers will compete feverishly to get shoppers to visit their stores – and their websites! Whether you’ll be doing your holiday shopping on Black Friday or beyond, be sure to keep these BBB tips in mind to help ensure a satisfactory experience:

  • Research the company. Visit bbb.org or call 800-646-6222 to obtain free Business Reviews. Remember, BBB Business Reviews have been optimized for smartphones.
  • Getting the real deal.  Do you know if a sale is really a sale?  Many times companies boast “70 percent off,” but 70 percent off what? It always pays to comparison shop. If a company is advertising a “Going out of Business” sale, don’t automatically assume they are offering the best prices in town. Take the time to check prices on the same items at other stores.
  • Search for Black Friday Ads Ahead of Time. Some retailers have ‘gone for it,’ announcing their Black Friday specials well in advance of Friday, November 28. Newspapers often have coupons that outline store discounts for Black Friday, and some specials are posted on the Internet. By keeping your eyes open and nose to the ground, you can sniff out deals others might miss.
  • Return policies, restocking fees and refunds.  Ask for the store’s return policy before you make your purchase. Companies are not required to give you your money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently near the cashier. Also, always ask about restocking fees, and save your receipts in one place so you don’t lose them.  Many companies will require you to produce a receipt for a return. Ask for a gift receipt.
  • Watch out for deals too good to be true. While many retailers offer ‘doorbusters’ – specials that are eye-opening – some websites offer suspiciously low prices on sought-after goods in an effort to entice shoppers into turning over their credit card information. Stick to trustworthy websites and look for the BBB seal and other recognized “trust marks.” Be sure to click on the seals to confirm they are valid.
  • Gift cards. Gift cards regularly top consumers’ wish lists. Federal rules govern gift card sales, and those rules state:
  • An inactivity fee cannot be charged until the card has not been used for 12 months.
  • Gift cards cannot expire for at least 5 years.
  • No more than one fee (of any kind) can be charged to the cardholder in a single month.
  • Information printed on the card must disclose fees and expiration date and provide a toll-free phone number or website where you can get more information.
  • A one-time fee can be charged when you buy the card, though this generally only applies to gift cards purchased through your credit card company – not those purchased directly from stores and restaurants.
  • If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly if, possible.

Finally, consumers should keep in mind there will be many more opportunities for savings as we go through the long holiday season.

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 Great Recession is over, but its effects are still being felt. One of those effects saw layaway plans reintroduced into the marketplace. With many shoppers still minding budgets and searching for more affordable methods of paying for big-ticket items, layaway plans are worth exploring. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering advice on how to use this payment plan in lieu of credit cards.

Once considered a dated, old-fashioned method of payment, layaway services are back, with many retailers dusting offering payment plans for today’s more frugal consumers. Buying items on layaway is different from putting them on a credit card because the buyer isn’t charged interest on the purchase and can’t take the item home until it is paid off. When purchasing items on layaway, the buyer must typically make a down payment of 10 to 20 percent and pay any service or plan fees for the store to hold the item for them. The customer then typically has 30 to 90 days to make periodic payments to pay off the balance. Once it is paid off, the customer can take the item home.

“For many people, layaway plans are a preferable alternative to taking on more debt via their credit cards,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

As a complement to in-store layaway, some stores provide online layaway services for purchasing items through the retailer’s website. Additionally, third-party businesses have sprung up for the purpose of setting up layaway plans online between customers and retailers that don’t already have a layaway program. Customers make periodic payments to the third-party layaway service provider. Once the item is fully paid for, the business then buys the item from the retailer and ships it to the customer.

When buying items on layaway, the BBB advises consumers to get everything in writing and offers the following checklist of questions to ask:

• How much time do I have to pay off the item?

• When are the payments due?

• How much do I have to put down?

• Are there any storage or service plan fees?

• What happens if I miss a payment? Are there penalties? Does the item return to inventory?

• Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want the item after making a few payments?

• What happens if the item goes on sale after I’ve put it on layaway?

• Does the retailer or third-party layaway service have a good BBB rating? Research them for free at www.bbb.org.

For more advice on how to be a savvy consumer this holiday season, visit 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.

 


 

As part of their outreach to the military community, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota’s local Military Line (BBB) program has partnered with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance to create a specially-designed tri-fold handout containing tips on scams targeting servicemembers and their families, as well as a list of community resources they can turn to when they have questions, concerns or need assistance.

The handout, which was first distributed at a MACV StandDown event in Mankato on Wednesday, November 12 – and is now widely available to the military community – is designed in muted colors, to be user-friendly for veterans suffering from symptoms due to traumatic brain injury (TBI). Reports indicate that up to 20 percent of returning veterans exhibit symptoms of having sustained traumatic brain injuries. People suffering from these symptoms find brighter colors and densely-worded materials off-putting and have difficulty processing information formatted in standard fashion.

“This information is important to all servicemembers and veterans, and when we designed this handout, we did so in such a way that it would be accessible to all,” said Lisa Jemtrud, Director of BBB’s Institute for Marketplace Ethics. “Our goal is to reach and help protect everyone, but especially those that need our help most.”

BBB’s new handout for veterans and servicemembers, as well as their families and caregivers, includes:

  • Tips on scams targeting military personnel and their families – and how to avoid them
  • An index of resources available to veterans
  • Information on payday loans and pension scams
  • A list of Do’s and Don’ts designed to protect personal information and help ensure financial security

For more than two years, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota staff has made presentations at more than 100 events, reaching 10,000-plus people through workshops and military expos. BBB regularly provides information regarding employment scams at job fairs, offers resources to struggling veterans at StandDown events, conducts workshops on buying a car to veterans transitioning from various support programs and educates servicemembers and their families on how to be smart consumers in today’s fast-paced economy.

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.