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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BBB offers these tips for World Elder Abuse Day

Today is World Elder Abuse Day (June 15, 2017). This year’s theme is, “Understanding and Ending Financial Exploitation of Older People.” Financial scams often go unreported and they can be devastating to many older adults, leaving them in a very vulnerable position.

In honor of World Elder Abuse Day, Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland (BBB) would like to highlight common financial fraud that targets our growing population of older adults.

Telemarketing Fraud - If you receive a suspicious phone calls using these or similar lines, hang up the phone to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

Image result for older person on phoneYou receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS. You are told you owe back taxes that must be paid immediately, or you will be arrested. Someone calls posing as your grandchild. The phony grandchild will claim to be out of town and in trouble, urging you to send money ASAP. You receive a call that you have won a financial prize, but you are required to send an advance payment of a fee to collect the winnings.

BBB Says - Don’t do business with an unfamiliar company. Legitimate companies won’t pressure/intimidate you to make a snap decision. Research a company at bbb.org/cleveland.  Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law. Never send/wire money (including gift cards) or give out personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to anyone you don’t know. Avoid “act now” or “no-risk” opportunities.

Investment Schemes - Many older adults look for ways to supplement their income in their retirement. Investment scammers lure you into their schemes through the internet, postcards, phone calls, spam emails, social media, luncheons, and investment newsletters to talk you into some supposedly great investment opportunity that offers big returns .Regardless of the specifics, you are offered what sounds like a great opportunity but the extra income never materializes.

Black Calculator Near Ballpoint Pen on White Printed PaperBBB Says - Know who you are dealing with and research any investment before committing any money. Beware of anyone who suggests putting your money into something you do not understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands. Watch for red flags like: guarantees, unregistered products, overly consistent returns, complex strategies, missing documentation, account discrepancies or a pushy salesperson.

Phony Debt Collectors - You receive a call  from someone claiming to work on behalf of a loan company. They claim to be collecting overdue payments taken out by your family member or significant other. If you say you do not owe a debt, the caller threatens that you
or a loved one will be arrested and/or face other consequences.

BBB Says - If you think that a caller may be a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Then, confirm that the collection agency is real. You should also ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How to Stop Annoying and Unwanted Calls

cable, call, communication

Are you tired of getting bombarded with unwanted calls? Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland offers these tips to limit your calls:

  1. Sign up for Do Not Call Registry

Register your home or mobile phone for the Do Not Call Registry for FREE at donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you received an unwanted call after your number is on the National Registry for 31 days, report it to the FTC.

  1. Hang up on illegal sales calls
If your number is on the Do Not Call Registry, and are getting sales or illegal robocalls, don’t press buttons to be taken off the call list or talk to a live person. Doing so will most likely lead to more unwanted calls. Just hang up.

  1. Purchase a Call Blocker

Call blocking allows you to block incoming calls from specific telephone numbers. You can purchase a device that connects with your landline. These devices blacklist calls, meaning they automatically block call from coming through based on its preloaded database of spam number. Some devices offer a blacklist and a whitelist option. Consumers can manually program the phone to recognize and accept a certain number of known "safe" numbers.
  1. Sign up for free Nomorobo

Nomorobo (winner of FTC Robocall Challenge) is a free service that intercepts calls after the first ring and blocks those on a FTC assisted blacklist. If the call is legitimate the call goes through. If it’s an illegal robocall, the call is intercepted and hung up. Not all phone carries support simultaneous ringing, to see if your phone supports Nomorobo visit www.nomorobo.com. Sign up by entering your phone carrier and email address. The website will provide you step-by-step instructions based on your carrier.

  1. Do NOT Answer Calls from anyone you do not know

Don’t rely solely on caller ID alone. Scammers will spoof (manipulate) the phone number to make it look like they are calling from a number in your area, the IRS, Washington DC, Police, etc. Do NOT answer calls from anyone you do not know.

BBB does not endorse or recommend certain services, products or businesses.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Utilizing Customer Reviews for Your Small Business

Small business owners engage in a variety of marketing techniques to help promote their small business. But, one source of marketing that often gets overlooked is the customers. A customer letting others know about their experience can have a big impact on a business. 88% of consumers claim that reviews impact their buying decision. Using Customer Reviews are not only a free source of advertising, but can create a positive image for potential new customers.

Timing is everything

Don’t be afraid to ask for Customer Reviews. If you don’t ask, your chances are slim to none of getting a positive review. If a customer has a bad experience, they will set out to write a bad review. A customer with a good experience may simply let you know in person or over the phone. Be direct! Take the opportunity to ask your customer to share his/her experience in an online review.

How to Ask for a Customer Review

It takes people several times to hear/see something before they remember it - let alone take action. Make it easy for customers to leave you a review by encouraging them to read/leave reviews about your business throughout your interaction. Train staff to tell potential customers to read reviews about your business before making a purchasing decision, as well as asking for review at the end of service. Make is part of your employee’s daily interaction with customers.Create visual customer review content that engages customers including emails, email signatures, stickers, postcards, signs, and social media posts.

Solutions are important 

Each and every customer review, good or bad, deserves a response. Though it may be hard to not take a negative review personally, remember this is business. You want to respond to customer reviews in a timely, genuine, and professional manner. If you have a positive review, a simple “thank you” can show your appreciation. If you do have a negative review, make an honest effort to resolve the issue. We all make mistakes; potential customers like to see both sides and how a business responds.  

BBB makes it easier for consumers to leave reviews about a business. To learn more visit: bbb.org/cleveland/reviews

Friday, May 26, 2017

Five Money Moves to Make By Your First Duty Station

In honor or Memorial Day, Better Business Serving Greater Cleveland would like to thank those who serve, who have served, and their families. BBB offers a Military Line that offers resources to help those who serve(d) our country. Through the help of MilitarySaves.Org we would like to share this post by quest author: Alecia D. Blair, Military Saves Communications & Outreach Manager, AFC® Candidate, FINRA Foundation Fellow

Line of Soldiers Walkin
As a new recruit after basic training, there's a lot to learn about your branch of the military, job or MOS (military occupation specialty), and first duty station. How well (and how quickly) you learn these skills can impact your military career.
Equally important is how well you learn to manage your financial fitness by creating healthy savings habits. Here are five money moves you should make by the time you get to your first duty station to set yourself up for success.
1. Understand your benefits and LES (Leave and Earning Statement)
When it comes to money and the military, ignorance is not bliss. From Tricare to your housing allowance, understand the full range of benefits available to you and use them wisely to save money.
Do you understand how to read your LES? If not, here are some guides to get your started. Be sure to address errors with your installation's Finance Office. After all, the first step to saving money is to make sure you're receiving your pay and benefits correctly.
2. Find your Personal Financial Counselor
Did you know that many installations offer FREE, confidential financial counseling to service members and families? It's true! This service is expensive in the civilian world. Seek out your financial counselor and the guidance he or she has to offer to help you get your financial house in order. Find your installation's contact information here to get started.
3. Come up with a savings plan and set some goals
Now's the perfect time to take a hard look at your income and expenses and create a realistic savings plan or budget. Check out SaveandInvest.org and USAAEF.org for great information on how to create a spending plan.
Once you've created a spending plan, add a new line item to it to pay yourself first (and save automatically), rather than treating your savings as an afterthought. What will you save for? Work with your Personal Financial Counselor to identify at least one savings goal and commit to it by taking the Military Saves Pledge. People who Pledge and create a savings plan are twice as likely to make good progress meeting their savings needs.
One possible savings goal is retirement, and a big change is coming to military retirement next year. Between Jan. 1- Dec. 31, 2018, the new Blended Retirement System (BRS) goes into effect, and service members with fewer than 12 years of service (as of December 31, 2017) will be required to make an irrevocable decision--to opt into the BRS or stay in legacy retirement system. Educate yourself on the BRS, then, take informed, decisive action in 2018 to meet your retirement savings goals. Learn more here.
4. Steer clear of needless debt
It might be tempting to run out and buy a new car or new furniture at your first duty station, especially when you get paid twice a month. And yes, retailers will want to sell you their goods and services--your paycheck is as reliable as Uncle Sam! But proceed with caution. Spending without a plan can leave you with dangerous debt. Instead, save for your big purchases. if you find yourself in a financial jam, stay away from the trap of payday loans and look for help from an alternative, such as a military relief agency. Build and nurture your credit. Here's how.
5. Sync up your savings plan with your career and personal plans
Every promotion, deployment, temporary duty (or TDY) and Permanent Change of Station (or PCS) move is an opportunity to stop and assess your own financial fitness. Could you save 1 percent more now that you're a newly-pinned Specialist? Could you add $50 more per month to your emergency and transition funds and $50 more per month to pay off debt during your upcoming deployment? A change in your military career is often a great opportunity to bring positive change to your financial situation.
Are marriage and children in your future? If so, saving ahead of time will make these huge life changes a lot less stressful. Weddings, managing the expenses of a household and the needs of a baby offer big financial challenges for young military families. (Did you know that the average cost of a wedding is more than $30,000, according theknot.com?!) Save for life's special events ahead of time so that you're able to enjoy them more.
And before you jump into parenthood, consider the expenses of raising a baby and begin saving. Ask yourself if your household income and savings comfortably support a family. If not, set this as a savings goal and begin working towards it.
Military Saves has your back as you start your career in the military. Follow these five steps to set yourself up for financial fitness now and throughout your career.
For more information visit BBB Military Line or MilitarySaves.org