Better Business Bureau Tips for Consumers – June addition

The BBB sends out tips for consumers, and here is their June addition.

BBB Advice on Avoiding Wedding Scams
Love is in the air as many couples prepare for their long-awaited wedding day this summer. When preparing for the big day, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises people to proceed with caution when it comes to buying a wedding dress online, choosing a photographer and selecting a wedding planner. Doing so will help you ensure your wedding goes off without a hitch.
Asking for referrals and doing a little research can make a big difference in helping your special day go smoothly. Last year alone, the BBB received more than 970 complaints against wedding-related businesses. Services like wedding planners, bridal shops, car or limousine rentals, DJs, wedding photographers, florists, and jewelers all made the list. Many of the common complaints were centered on the company’s unwillingness to honor cancellation and refund policies after a deposit had been paid.
From choosing a florist to picking out the perfect wedding gown, more and more couples are opting for online retailers. While most venues have the brides’ best interest at heart, it’s important to recognize the danger signs before shelling out hard-earned cash to unreliable businesses.
“With the cost of today’s wedding averaging around $28,000, you want to make sure you get everything you pay for,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. “It’s important to do your research before securing your wedding vendors and paying any upfront fees.”
The BBB recommends couples consider the following when planning for their special day:
Research all online vendors. When choosing to go with an online retailer for your wedding services or products, start with a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can often lead you to unscrupulous websites or phishing scams.  Also, look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retail websites. Click on the seals to confirm they’re valid. Confirm that your online purchase is secure by looking for the “s” after “http” in the URL or the lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Be sure to check the company out with the BBB at www.bbb.org before doing business with them.

Review all terms and conditions. Whether you’re dealing with an online firm or a brick and mortar store, review the terms and conditions of the contract carefully. What are the company’s refund and exchange policies? What is their cancellation policy?  What happens if the company can’t hold up their end of the bargain?  Who will perform the service on your special day? Be sure you understand your rights as a consumer before doing business with the company.

Keep documentation of your order. For online orders, save a copy of the confirmation page or e-mails confirming the order until you receive the item or service and are satisfied. If you’re dealing with a company representative in-person, be sure to get all details in writing, including specific dates, products, prices, cancellation and deposit policies and signatures from both parties.
Pay with a credit card.Credit cards offer consumers the added protection of disputing any charge over $50 within 60 days of the purchase. Most established businesses accept major credit cards, so use them whenever possible, including payment for deposits Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies if someone steals your card number and uses it. Never wire money.Consider purchasing wedding insurance. Wedding insurance can cover a range of prospective problems including vendor no-shows, cancellations, inclement weather, military deployment, medical emergencies, travel delays and more. Many policies start at $200 and can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news.

Survey

I put out the request for people to take a survey the other day, and it seems like there was a “glitch” in the system that would not allow some people to complete the survey.  I spoke with the person in charge of the survey and it has been fixed.  The survey can be accessed here.

http://survey.scamresearch.info//43356/lang-en

Survey on Scams and Fraud

A post-graduate researcher has asked us to help them with a survey they are doing.  I have personally taken this survey and feel it is safe for all of you to take, otherwise I would not even ASK for your help.  It does NOT ask for any personal information at all, just some questions on your feelings and thoughts on different real life situations.

Here is a link to the survey
http://survey.scamresearch.info//index.php?sid=43356&lang=en

And here is a link to some more information on the person doing this research if you are interested
http://scamvictimsunited.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=6529

Thank you for your help!  Please spread the word to other scam fighting websites that you know.

What’s your story?

I am being contacted by media personal, and I want to have a little info about people that may be willing to speak with them about why the topic of scams and fraud is so important to them. I was thinking of "sorting" them by states, since I usually get a media contact that wants someone in their state.

If you would be willing to speak to a media person about YOUR PERSONAL connection with the topic of scams and fraud here is an example of what I am looking for . . . mine would read like this

Shawn and Jeff Mosch
full mailing address for contact
best phone number for them to contact you at
best email address to contact you at

Summary:
Shawn and Jeff Mosch are scam victims turned Victim’s Advocate who work to educate people about internet scams. After their personal experience with a counterfeit cashier’s check scam in 2002, they found a lack of information and resources available at the time. This was the motivating factor in creating their website, ScamVictimsUnited.com. They continue to be passionate about this issue and work with other agencies to bring more awareness to the topic of scams and push for laws that will help to protect people from these scams.

--------------------------

It does not need to be long . . . if you were a victim it can just be the type of scam you were a victim of, when it happened and how much you lost.

<b>DO NOT POST YOUR INFO ON A MESSAGE BOARD ON IN A COMMENT TO THIS POST SINCE IT WILL INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO!</b>
Please send it directly to me from my blogger contact info
http://www.blogger.com/profile/00668897360179366316
or contacting us through the Feedback page or our site which goes to our main Admin email address.
http://scamvictimsunited.com/feedback.htm

If you could put Summary and your name in the subject line that will help me find them all in my inbox

Thanks!

More on MN Bill HF0343

Things have been so busy I feel like I have neglected my scam fighting blogger friends.  I did want to give you a quick update on a topic that is very dear to my heart . . . laws to protect scam victims.  As anyone who has read my story, website, blog or who has any interaction with me personally in the past 8+ years since I have started down this road of scam education and awareness knows that I am passionate about this issue.  I have been asking for laws to be changed from day one.  In the beginning, people just laughed and said that there was no way to change those kinds of laws or do anything to help scam victims, but that did not make me give up . . . I just kept talking to different people until found someone that DID listen to me.
Then things started to turn around.  I was able to speak with someone at Senator Franken’s office and they really listened to what I had to say.  We had several phone and email conversations, bouncing ideas off of each other.  Then around the same time I was asked by AARP of Minnesota and the BBB of Minnesota to come to a meeting that they were having to look at legislation that could help scam victims, or better yet, protect people from BECOMING scam victims.  I could not believe it . . . things were falling into place.  At that meeting I shared all of the ideas that my husband Jeff and I had from day one of beginning our site.  I told them that I am not a legal expert, but I know what would have saved us, and the people that come to our website for assistance, from becoming scam victims.  I showed them the “loopholes” that I saw in the way that things were currently run, with both banking institutions and money transfer companies.  I said that if they could close these loopholes, we could dramatically reduce this type of scams.
So I made sure that my contacts at the BBB, AARP and Senator Franken’s office all were connected to each other, and then I waited.  There were a few more emails and conversations, but after a while things kind of stopped going and I wondered if the whole idea fell through.  Then, at a Fraud Fighter’s Forum organized by the Minnesota AARP I saw it for the first time . . . HF0343.  If you would like to read the Bill, you can do so at this link.  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/revisor/pages/search_status/status_detail.php?b=House&f=HF0343&ssn=0&y=2011
Many of the items in this Bill are things that I have been talking about for years, so to see it becoming a reality was HUGE for me.  There are other scam fighting sites out there that are also backing this bill.  I think that is great that we can all join together on one common issue.  It does not matter who told you about HF0343, just that you know about it, and that we get it passed.  If it passes in Minnesota, we can then all work together to see it get passed in other states.
I was also able to be at a recent hearing about this Bill, and I shared with everyone there why I am so passionate about this issue and that if this Bill would have been law in 2002, I would not have been sitting in front of them speaking to them as a scam victim . . . if this Bill works as it is written, it would have saved my husband and I from becoming victims.
Also, there are some that have recently accused me of “stealing their thunder” and I believe most of it is due to a recent post I made telling all of you about this bill and asking you to send letters in to the authors.  This other group was asking people to send in letters, and instead of “re-inventing the wheel” I passed that information on to all of you.  I felt that I could do this because
1)      I also had been working with the same groups mentioned in the context of the letter
2)      I also feel passionately about this topic
3)      This group was asking for help in getting the word out
4)      Had I know that letters to the authors would “help” I would have put the word out a LONG time ago
To me, scam fighting and changing the laws is not about who “gets credit” for it . . . it is about all of us working together for the best outcome.  If I have some good info, and you want to share it, go ahead . . . share away!  That is how we get the word to spread and educate more people.

Laws fighting scams and fraud

I have been working with some people here in Minnesota, and we are making some progress on scam fighting. There are currently some laws being proposed and if we get them to pass here in Minnesota we are hoping that other states will follow our lead.
This is where we need your help . . . we are being asked to send the authors of this bill letters or emails telling them why this bill is so important. Some suggested speaking points are
That you have been scammed
That you lost X amount (we want the authors to realize the extent of these crimes)
Thanking them for caring and taking the time to sponsor this bill
Hoping that it will be passed.
Here is a link to the text of the bill for you to read
Here are the names or the people we need to contact, and links to their sites with their contact info
Could you help me by not only contacting these people and telling them how much we need laws like this to protect people from scams and fraud, but also share this information with ANYONE that you know that might also be willing to contact the above people . . . share it on blogs, message boards, Facebook, Twitter . . . anywhere you can!
Thanks!

Things that are certain

I am going to guess that most of you have heard the quote from Benjamin Franklin who said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”  Well Ben, I would like to add one more thing to that list . . . scams.  No matter what the season, reason or situation, scams will continue on.  The scammers may change the story, but once you peel back the layers of the story, the scam that remains is the same.


Here is an example of what I am talking about.  This is an email telling the recipient that they overpaid in their taxes and are entitled to a refund.

Overpayment Notification
Date of this Notice: MAR. 06, 2011Taxpayer Identifying Number: xxx-xx-xxxxForm: 1040
Tax Period: DEC. 31, 2010

Subject: Taxpayer Overpayment on Tax Refund
Dear Taxpayer:
Our records show you were overpaid on your Federal Tax Refund under Social Security Number xxx-xx-xxxx, therefore $380.00 of the overpaid Tax Refund must be returned.
This memorandum serves as notification of an overpayment of Tax Refund that you received and the subsequent repayment that is your responsibility.

The overpayment totals $380.00 for 1040/2010 filing period you were overpaid in error because of an incorrect Tax Adjustment causing an incorrect refund.

You are offered the following options of repayment within five (05) business days from today Mar. 11, 2011. Failure to respond timely will result in the immediate recovery of the overpayment, fines, and possible criminal prosecution.

If you disagree with the amount listed below, you have the right to an immediate Pre-decision Meeting with a person who has direct access to the agency appointing authority for this purpose.

A summary of the overpayment is as follows:

Here are your Re-payment Options: 1. Submit payment within five (05) business days of the “date of demand” to the account: Name(s) on Receiving Account: C Street: City: Zip Code: State: Country: United States Bank name: FIFTH THIRD BANK
Bank Account Number: Electronic ABA Routing Number(ex. Direct Deposit/Automatic Payment): Wire ABA Routing Number: Bank Address:348 Lincoln Highway, North Versailles, PA, 15137 Bank phone #:1-800-972-3030
2. Write on transfer reference: “Payment of Erroneous Refund” and your SSN. 3. Failure to comply within the given time frame will result in stiff penalties and interest accruals in excess of what is owed.

Sincerely yours,

WILLIAM C. MALAHAI19-06693Tax Assessment Supervisor

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MN AARP Event

Your Family’s Money Matters: Make the Most of Your Finances In Tough Economic Times

Saturday, March 26, 2011
8:30 – 11:30 A.M.
The Wilder Center
451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul
Choose from workshops about:
  • Financing a small business
  • Planning for Retirement
  • Getting the most from your tax return
  • Creating healthy financial habits
  • Preventing home foreclosure
  • Understanding your credit report
Space is limited! To register, send an e-mail to rsvp@franken.senate.gov or call (651) 221-1016. Please indicate which two workshops you would like to attend.
Workshops will be presented by partnering organizations:
AARP, AccountAbility Minnesota, Lutheran Social Service, The Minnesota Home Ownership Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, WomenVenture.
Senator Franken will give opening remarks.

Below is the link to the flyer for this event.
http://www.accountabilitymn.org/sites/default/files/Sen_Franken_FTC_Event.pdf

Let your voice be heard

Are you one of those people who will stand up and say something about an issue that you think is wrong?  How do you go about finding others who also feel the same way that you do?  Blogs and social networking sites can be a great way for you connect with like minded people so that you can join together to try and make an impact to change the issues that are important to you.

Since I have a Twitter account I get a notification when I get a new follower, and I always check out that new follower’s page to see if they are connected to any resources that might be a good fit to team up with.  Here are a few recent ones that I wanted to share with you.

LoanFraudVictim – This Twitter user has a website at http://wellsfargomortgagefraud.com/ detailing the story of her battle to hold Wells Fargo accountable for the damage they did.

NetWatchDog – This Twitter user is from the website http://theinternetwatchdog.com/ which is filled with information on internet scams and fraud.

WFmortmodscam – Working to keep Wells Fargo Home Mortgage or another lender from stealing your home? It’s time to fight back! Blogging at wellsfargomortgagemodscam.com/blog/

BanksGoneBad – Florida mortgage pro who has seen banks fraudulently foreclose on homeowners as well as perpetrate fraud on investors and bond holders. I’m helping 2 fight back  http://banksgonebad.com/

What Would You Do?

I wanted to share the following link with you.  The show What Would You Do sets up scenarios and sees if people will jump in to assist.  The one that aired last night had a segment on Nigerian Scams.  The producers of this show actually had contacted me some time ago because they wanted a scam victim to speak with, but we were not able to find one that was willing to speak with them.

You can watch the video of the episode at
or read the transcript at
I would also encourage you to leave your comments on the topic at the link with the transcript.