Thursday, September 7, 2017

Protecting Your Business

BusinessScams.png

As a business owner, it's your responsibility to do everything within your means to limit risk and keep the business running smoothly. Scammers will often try to take advantage of you or your employees. What is the best way to protect your business from these scammers? BBB offers warning signs from common scams that target small to medium-sized businesses.



Directory Listings


Scammers may contact your business asking you or your employees to “confirm” or “verify” your company's contact information for their business directory. Scammers often use similar sounding names like “Yellow Pages” to make you think the directory listing is legitimate. In reality the directory does not exist and the likelihood the company actually exist is slim.


Often the employees who answer the phone aren’t trained to recognize these scams. Employees are tricked into providing a listing and saying “yes.”   


The scammers then follow up by sending your business an invoice for your directory listing. When you try to dispute the invoice, the scammers will playback a recording of your employee saying yes, as “proof” that they agreed to pay for this listing. If you don’t pay this invoice scammers send more invoices, collection notices, and calls threatening to ruin your businesses credit.


Fake Invoices


Scammers will bombard your business with phony letters, emails, and bills. If you get a bill in the mail saying that your web address/domain is about to expire, don't panic. The “invoice” stresses that that if you don’t pay the bill immediately your website will be shut down. Some business pay first and ask questions later. Carefully read all invoices and channel all invoices through one department so your business can make sure the invoices you pay are legitimate.


Other invoice scams include: advertising listings, memberships, trademark, or bills for goods you would normally use.


Delinquent Utilities


What would you do if your company's power, gas, or phones shut off unexpectedly? Scammers feed off our emotions so we become more vulnerable to scams. You may get a call or letter from your utility company claiming that your account is delinquent. Scammers will tell you that if you don’t pay immediately your utilities will be shut off. When in doubt, find a legitimate phone number to call the utility company and confirm the notice. You don’t want to rely on the number the caller gives you. Scammers may also “spoof” the number to make it look likes it coming from the utility company in your area. The power company will never call demanding payment via prepaid debit card. They will send a written notice first.


Office Supply Scam


Every businesses need some sort of office supplies. But, not all offices have a formal procedure for processing orders. When supplies show up at the office, employees often OK or pay for the order without really checking. The orders delivered to the office may contain more products than you ordered. Even worse the boxes may contain no supplies at all. The scammer may call asking to verify the order, tricking the employees into saying yes. Your business may then get threatening calls demanding payment for the supplies. If you refuse to pay they caller present the verification your employee provided. Don’t pay for products or services you have not ordered. Compile a list of approved vendors you get deliveries from, create a formal procedure for deliveries, inspect invoices, and train staff.


Check Scam

Scammers will try every way to try to trick you into giving them money. Sometimes scammers will send your business a check in the mail that looks like a refund or a rebate check. Be cautious and read the fine print on the back of the check. By cashing the check you may be agreeing to be billed for something you don’t want or need. A similar fake check scam occurs when the scammer acts as the buyer. They convince you that they overpaid for the products that they ordered. They ask you to deposit the check and wire them the difference. You might be able to cash their check right away, but it can take weeks for the bank to determine the check is a fake. Now you are out of the money you sent the “customer” and are stuck with the fees associated with cashing a fake check.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Protect Your Children's Personal Information when Heading Back to School this Year

Free stock photo of apple, notebook, office, pen
As summer comes to a close, and you begin to get your children ready for a new school year, Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland (BBB) wants to remind you to protect your children from getting their identity stolen.

Many school forms require personal and sometimes sensitive information, allowing them to become vulnerable. Find out how your child’s information is collected, used, stored, and thrown away. By asking your school (and other organizations) to safeguard their information you can help minimize your child’s risk of identity theft.

Know the Warning Signs

A child’s Social Security number can be used by thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan/utility service or rent a place to live. There are several things that may alert you that someone is misusing your child’s personal information.

Some signs include:

  • If they are turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using the child’s Social Security number.
  • If they get a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • If they get collection calls or bills for products or services that one didn’t receive.


Limit the Risks

Laws safeguard a consumer’s child and their family’s personal information. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, protects the privacy of student records. It also gives parents of school-age kids the right to opt-out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.

To limit the risk of child Identity Theft BBB suggests:

  • Find out who are your child’s school as access to their personal information. Verify that all records are kept in a secure location. 
  • Check for a credit report to see if your child’s information is being misused. If it is, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.
  • If your child participates in activities such as sports, music, etc., read the privacy policies of these organizations to find out if and how your child’s information will be used and shared. 
  • Ask your child’s school about its directory information policy. Ask what information is being shared, who has access to the directory, etc. If you decide to opt-out it is best to do so in writing and keep a copy in your records. 

Take Action

If you believe your child's information has been compromised, contact the school to learn more. Talk with school staff about the incident, and keep written record of the conversations. To see if your child’s information is being misused, check whether your child has a credit report by contacting the three major credit reporting companies. If your child has become a victim of Identity Theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from the incident.

For more information you can contact your local consumer protection agency or state attorney general. You can also file a complaint with the U.S Department of Education.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Back to School Shopping Tips


back to school, conceptual, creativity
Before you know it, it will be time for your kids to head back to school. Nationally, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $673.57 on apparel, shoes, electronics and supplies, according to the National Retail Federation in 2016. Though not everyone will spend that much, BBB Cleveland wants youto remember these tips before heading back to school:
  • Make a shopping list. Even if you don’t know the exact school supply list, you should get an idea of school clothing and other basic school needs. Check at home first, and create an inventory of what you have. You may have items from prior school years. This will help you avoid making impulse purchases and making multiple trips to the store.
  • Create a budget.  Know how much you want to spend and purchase only items you need. There are many back to school sales this time of year. Compare prices and sign up for sale alerts from your favorite stores. Be sure to review ads for restrictions on quantities, and dates for sale and return policies.  Consider buying basic supplies (like notebooks, folders and pencils) at discount stores, such as the dollar store.
  • Plan ahead for expensive items. Occasionally, schools may require students have more expensive items such as laptop or notebook computers. Plan ahead for these “big ticket” items to avoid busting your budget. Many stores offer student and teacher discounts.
  • Network with parents.  Find out if your child’s school has a uniform exchange. It is a great way to recycle your gently used items and save money on the thing you need this year. You can also research on buying school supplies in bulk and splitting the cost with other parents in your area.

Monday, July 31, 2017

National Night Out 2017

On August 1, 2017, BBB along with other organizations across the country will be celebrating National Night Out. The goal of these events is to strengthen community bonds in order to create a safer community. Visit BBB on August 1, 2017, from 5-9 pm at Steelyard Commons and Solon Community Center for more tips! By working together with your neighbors, you can create a safe and secure community.


BBB offers tips to help get you started:

Get to know your neighbors. National Night Out is a great way to meet people in your area. Just knowing who your neighbors are is valuable, but establishing relationships really makes a difference in keeping your neighborhood safe from crime.

Neighborhood watch. Form a watch group in your area and report suspect activity. Alert neighbors and police if you see unfamiliar cars driving slowly or individuals acting suspiciously. Keep a list with names and phone numbers of homeowners on your block handy.

Shred your documents! Destroy all documents with financial or personal information in a shredder. This includes bank and credit card statements, stock portfolios, tax returns, ATM and credit/debit card receipts, copies of birth, death, and marriage licenses, vehicle titles, deeds and mortgages, pay stubs and insurance policies. BBB offers secure shredding twice a year (throughout our service area) at our Secure Your ID Day. To learn more about upcoming events visit:  bbb.org/cleveland/SecureYourID.

Monitor door-to-door sales. Although many legitimate companies solicit door-to-door, con artists use this technique as well. If a door-to-door salesperson knocks on your door, know that you do not have to answer the door or allow the person into your home. If you choose to answer, research  the company out first at bbb.org before committing to buy any product or service. Many cities also offer “No Soliciting” signs, check with your local city hall for availability.

Vacation safety. If you are traveling, let police, trusted neighbors, or friends and family know when you will be gone and where and how they can reach you. Having someone check on your home, bring in newspapers and mail, and turn lights on and off can help keep your home safe. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, consider a stop order for your newspapers and mail while you’re gone.

For more tips visit: go.bbb.org/neighborhoodsafety


Monday, July 24, 2017

Three Things you Didn't Know About BBB

Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland (BBB) has been serving the community for over 100 years. Though you may know about BBB Business Profiles, Accredited Businesses, Customers Reviews, and finding trustworthy businesses, there’s probably a few things you didn’t know. Let’s take a look behind the scenes to see what BBB Cleveland is really up to.
Engaging our youth
iStock_29724888_XLARGE.jpgTeens are full-fledged consumers, but many are lacking the basic financial literacy to assist them to make sound decisions.  Now, and as they become adults, they are at greater risk of falling prey to questionable offers, negative/costly buying experiences, and poor spending and credit practices. To help combat this problem, BBB launched its BBB TeenSmart program during the 2008-2009 school year. Since then we have provided over 130 financial literacy workshops to more than 2800 high school students. Workshops are conducted by BBB staff and volunteers from the business community. Classes include topics like: credit & debit, budgeting, online safety, student loans, and identity theft. BBB also host our Students of Integrity scholarship contest that honor four local high school juniors or seniors who personifies ethics through leadership, community service, and actions.
iStock_74189043_SMALL.jpgHonoring those who serve, have served, and their families
The BBB Military Line is a consumer education program. We work to bring education and outreach to equip those who serve, have served, and their families with the tools they need to navigate an ever changing and often complex marketplace. We use education and outreach that is user focused - on the ground - on the web - and through mobile technology. The MobileMi$$ion app is designed to help transitioning service members, veterans and their families manage their finances during the shift from active duty to civilian life. Want to learn more? Get tips and articles by signing up for the Trusted Scout, a BBB Military Line newsletter.
 Resolving Disputes

The goal of mediation/arbitration is to resolve business/consumer disputes quickly and economically as an alternative to the court system. BBB has been helping resolve disputes for almost 100 years. Whether your company is a small local firm or large national corporation, we are here to share our expertise and experience with you and your customers.  The BBB is a recognized leader in the design, development and implementation of dispute resolution programs.  Acknowledged experts in dispute resolution direct the development and delivery of programs and employ cutting edge technology to manage programs and services. A panel of approximately 1,000 professional arbitrators--predominantly attorneys--partner with the BBB system to provide arbitration hearings that are local and yet consistent with overall program mandates.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Marketers of ‘NutriMost Ultimate Fat Loss System Settle FTC Charges


Earlier this year, with the help from Better Business Bureau Serving Western Pennsylvania, the FTC settled charges against the marketers of “NutriMost’ Ultimate Fat Loss System. The marketers of the weight-loss system made claims that the product was using “breakthrough technology” and “personalized supplements.” The advertisements also alleged to help consumers lose “20 to 40+ pounds in 40 days” without cutting calories.

According the FTC’s complaint NutriMost websites, Facebook, and newspaper ads, etc., made claims that the Nutrimost System does not require a restrictive diet, caused permanent weight, and helped users burn between 2,000 and 7,000 calories a day, through new weight loss technology.

In the complaint the FTC alleged that the defendants required buyers to sign a contract agreeing not to make negative statements about NutriMost System. The contract stated that if consumers violated the agreement they would need to pay defendants $35,999. By providing franchisees this contract as well as providing deceptive marketing materials the company violated the FTC Act.
The settlement prohibits Nutrimost and its franchisees from making weight-loss and health claims unless they are truthful and supported by reliable scientific evidence. It must also not be deceiving when stating that users do not need to follow a restrictive diet. In order to achieve the weight loss that Nutrimost advertised to consumers, one  would have to follow a very low-calorie diet (less than 800 calories a day). Additionally, they must divulge that  physician monitoring is recommended to avoid health risk.
Before signing up for a weight loss program:
  • Look for buzzwords. Phony products are often promoted using terms like “breakthrough,” “revolutionary,” “miraculous,” “secret,” or “miracle.”  Scammers or manipulating marketers often pair these buzzwords with claims from people who have shed pounds often without any dieting or exercise.

  • Don’t always trust promotions - Scam product websites will be littered with supposed media endorsements but these are often fake.  Always do your own research no matter how many news and media logos they tout.  Take celebrity endorsements with a grain of salt.  These individuals are paid to say positive things about the products and may not have ever even used them. Also, likenesses of celebrities are often used without their permission.  

  • Be cautious of free trials.  Many free trial offers do not clearly disclose that you risk being automatically enrolled into a monthly shipment if you do not cancel or return the product within a certain time frame.  

  • Read before your sign. Read a contract fully, including the fine print, before you sign. Be sure you understand all the terms and conditions. If you have any questions about the contract have an attorney look over it.

  • Do your research. Before purchasing a new product read the product reviews. Research at bbb.org/cleveland.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Watch Out for Storm Chasers


Summertime can mean nasty weather is traveling through your area. Flooding, hail, high winds, and other natural disasters can leave your home and property with thousands of dollars in damages. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who are trying to take advantage of those who have already been victimized.

Before hiring a contractor to work on your home Better Business Bureau offers these tips:

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many cities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state.

Resist high-pressure sales. Don’t feel pressured to hire someone on the spot. Try getting at least three written estimates before picking out a contractor.

Do your research. Check with your city to see what permits contractors need to work on your property. Check with your insurance company to make sure your liability insurance covers falls or injuries to contractors. Research the company by Googling the name of the company and the person who claims to be the owner. See if you can find others who have warned about problems with the company. Visit bbb.org to find Business Profiles on home contractors in your neighborhood.

Get it in writing.  written contract. Make sure it specifies the price, the work to be done and who will do it, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Travel with Ease When Renting a Car this Summer

Whether you are picking up a car at the airport while traveling or you need a vehicle while your own car is in the shop, renting a car can be a confusing puzzle of rates, fees, and responsibilities. You want to get the best deal, but the advertised price may not include all the possible fees.
Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help make your next car rental experience a little easier:

  • Do your Research. Check with Better Business Bureau before doing business with a company. Visit us at bbb.org/cleveland or call 216-241-7678 to check out rental car companies.

  • Shop around.  Car rental rates may vary depending on the company, lead time, etc. You may get a better rate if you shop around and compare prices. Check with your credit card company, insurance agencies, or other membership organizations to see if they offer package deals or discounted rates.

  • Check with your insurance. Before leaving home double check with your insurance carrier or employer policy (if traveling for work) to see if your policy covers damage to your rental vehicle or liability as a driver.

  • Read before your sign.  Before signing your rental agreement make sure you read the fine print and understand the terms of the contract. Check that the price and fees that you agreed to are reflected in your contract. Ask questions if you do not understand any parts of the contract.

  • Inspect the vehicle.  Before driving away in your rental car carefully inspect your rental vehicle. Note any damage including: scratches, dents, stains, tears, cracks, etc. Take pictures of videos of the damage for your personal records. Make the rental company aware of any  damages immediately.

  • Returning the vehicle. Upon returning with your rental car, check in with an attendant to inspect the vehicle and go over any damages. Get a final print out of the charges that will be made on your credit card. Later check your statement to make sure there are no unusual or unexpected charges.

  • For more tips visit: go.bbb.org/rentalcar

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Is your computer really infected?


If you get a call at your home from a tech support rep calls offering to fix a computer bug that you haven’t even noticed, use caution. In this con, scammers pose as tech support employees of well-known computer companies and hassle victims into paying for their “support.”
What happens is that get a telephone call or a popup on your computer screen from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Scammers use well-known companies to try to trick you into believing they are from a legitimate organization. In the case of these tech support scams, Microsoft is a popular choice. Scammer will try to create a sense of urgency by claiming that they've detected a virus, or your computer is about to crash and you’ll lose all your data!
You are told only a tech support employee can fix the problem, and you’re asked to allow access to your machine. Once access is granted, the caller will often run a “scan” and claim your computer is infected with viruses. The scammer then offers to fix the problem...for a fee.
That may not be the end of the scam. By allowing these scammers remote access to your computer they may be infecting your computers with viruses or installing malware on your computer. Malware often scans files in search of personal information, which scammers can use to commit identity theft.

There are a few things BBB wants you to know to avoid becoming a victim of these scams:
  1. Never give your password on the phone. Microsoft or any legitimate organization will NEVER call and asks for your password. Nor will they ask you to gain control of your computer out of the blue.
  2. Do your research. Online search results are not always the best way to find out about tech support companies. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them. They boost their ranking in search results so their information appears above legitimate companies.Check with us first at bbb.org/cleveland to see if the company is reputable.
  3. Don’t give out personal information. Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support. If you’re worried call your security software company directly and ask them for help.

Here are some additional computer safety tips:

  1. Never use the same password for all your online accounts. Create strong passwords with a combination of letters, number, and special characters, and remember to change passwords regularly.
  2. Backup your data. Backing up your files regularly can help when the unexpected happens.
  3. Use a secure connections. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address on every page on the site (the “s” is for secure).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Plan Your Next Move

May was National Moving Month. Though we are a few weeks late, it kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residences. Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers trying to take advantage of us. To help combat the stress of moving, BBB is here to offer these tips to help find a trustworthy moving company.

  • Get at least three In-Home estimates. Written, in-home estimates will help you make an informed buying decision. Show the mover everything that needs to be moved. If someone says they can only give you an estimate over the phone, they might be trying to scam you. Also, keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer which can cost you more in the end.
  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company isn’t willing to answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.
  • Get all agreements in writing. Read every document carefully before signing. Get copies of all documents you signed. If anything in the agreement  is unclear ask for clarification of seek legal advice.
  • Protect your possessions. Make sure that your mover provides full-value protection insurance for any lost or damaged possessions. Note that insurance is by the pound, so expensive items such as a flat-panel television may need additional replacement cost coverage in case they are damaged in transit.
  • Take your valuables with you. Cash, coins, jewelry, photographs and important papers should be taken with you or shipped separately using a shipping service with tracking numbers and insurance.
  • Do your research. Research a company at bbb.org/cleveland to read Customer Reviews or Request-A-Quote from a trustworthy mover. More tips and information on how to choose a mover and plan your move are available at AMSA's consumer Web site, www.moving.org; and the U.S. Department of Transportation's site, www.protectyourmove.gov.