Getting Calls from your own Phone Number?

BBB says Nationwide Caller ID Spoofing Scheme lands in Upper Midwest

Burnsville, Minnesota – July 28, 2014  Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) says area consumers are reporting they’re receiving illegal marketing calls that display their own phone number on caller ID. Though it’s natural to be curious about such calls, BBB advises the public to ignore the calls or let them go to voicemail – and then delete the messages.

“This is another clever ruse scammers have devised to get people to answer their phones,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “You look down, you see your own number on caller ID…obviously you want to know what it’s all about. We’re advising people to override that instinct.”

Since the start of summer, Better Business Bureaus across the country have been hearing from harried consumers who are confused – and annoyed – by these calls, which are often dialed by computerized calling centers.

Here’s how the scam works: 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, which of course, means they will require your credit card number. In some cases, consumers are informed they can supposedly opt-out of future calls by pressing “1.” People who do so can count on receiving more calls of this nature from other shady telemarketing firms. Any action consumers take tells fraudsters that a phone number is ‘good,’ and that number is added to phone lists which scammers then sell to other scammers. In any case, these promises of lowering your credit card interest rates are not legitimate.

The practice of using technology to alter or disguise the true number of an incoming telephone call is known as “spoofing,” and its use is growing among criminals who also use this technique to pretend they are calling from a well-known company or government agency. By hijacking the names and phone numbers of organizations with which you are familiar, the callers attempt to gain your trust in hopes they can trick you into handing over personal or financial information.

Per FTC rules, telemarketing sales calls with recorded messages are generally illegal unless you have given the company written permission to call you. Some prerecorded messages are permitted — for example, messages that are purely informational. That means you may receive calls to let you know your flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment, or messages about a delayed school opening. Prerecorded messages from a business contacting you to collect a debt also are also permitted, but messages offering to sell you services to reduce your debt are barred.

Other exceptions include political calls and calls from certain health care providers. For example, pharmacies are permitted to use prerecorded messages to provide prescription refill reminders. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.

“The most ingenious aspect of these ‘spoofing’ calls is the lack of information available to consumers,” added Badgerow. “If they report the issue to the FTC, what are they to report – their own phone numbers?”

Nevertheless, BBB has confirmed the FTC does want to hear about these calls and other suspect robocalls. People can file complaints by visitingwww.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. The FTC is interested in the time and date the call (or calls) occurred and what product is being offered.

Before responding to unsolicited phone calls, BBB advises:

Never give out any financial information – If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone. It’s best to end calls that make you uncomfortable or that you’re not sure about and follow up with your bank or financial institution – or government agency – directly.

Don’t rely on caller ID – Remember, scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses or organizations – or even from your own phone number. Caller ID is a helpful feature, but it’s far from foolproof. Keep your guard up.

Trust your instincts – If something doesn’t seem right to you, end the call and report your experience to BBB, by calling 800-646-6222 or visiting 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 atbbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

Don’t Let Your Summer Getaway Open the Door to Fraudsters

Summer is a great time for getaways, but while you’re on vacation, criminals are still hard at work. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) warns consumers that they can find themselves tripped up by their own vacation plans if they don’t first take some precautions.

“Scammers never stop thinking, so consumers have to be looking ahead too,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “The stakes are always high.”

According to Javelin Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Study, more than 13 million Americans had their identities stolen last year, and it cost an average of $3,500 to fix related problems. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), ID theft has surpassed drug trafficking to become the most prevalent crime in the nation.

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota advises consumers to be on the lookout for fraud in all of its forms, particularly technology-based schemes. Here are steps people setting out on vacation can take to protect themselves:

Keep an eye on your credit cards – When standing in line at a ticket counter or restaurant, don’t leave your credit card in plain view. Someone can snap a photo of it over your shoulder and use the information fraudulently.

 

Copy vital cards and documents – It’s a good idea to keep a record of your credit card, passport and other important numbers – in a safe place – in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen. Leave identity documents and cards that you don’t need at home. Make sure you keep a record of customer service numbers in case you run into a problem while you’re out of town.

 

Check receipts during vacation and after – When you get home, go through your bank and credit card statements to look for any unauthorized charges. If something is amiss, contact your financial institution immediately.

 

Manage your mail and newspaper delivery online – Before leaving town, visit www.usps.com/manage-your-mail to have your mail held while you’re away. It’s a good idea to do the same thing with the daily newspaper and ask a neighbor to collect any packages shipped special delivery.

 

Be careful with social media – Make sure nobody in your family announces that you’re going away for an awesome vacation. If your account settings are public, people you might not want to have that information can easily access it. Always be careful when posting photos from out of town for the same reason. Be sure you’re clear about your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and remember, people talk. There will be plenty of time to post your fun photos when you’ve returned from your trip.

 

Don’t get skimmed – Always inspect the card reader slot before using a standalone ATM or gas pump. Law enforcement agencies warn that criminals can place a fake card slot cover on these machines to enable them to capture customers’ financial information.

 

If you plan to use your credit cards while away, it may also be a good idea to contact your credit card provider or bank ahead of time. In an effort to prevent losses from fraud, financial institutions may refuse some credit card transactions from out of state if they do not match your typical spending pattern. Letting your credit card provider and bank know when you are leaving town – and returning – and where you are going might prevent a hold from being placed on your credit or debit card.

 

For more helpful tips, the latest consumer news and free Business Reviews, visit www.bbb.org

 

BBB Warning: Fun Runs Sometimes Promise More Than They Deliver

St. Paul 5K Foam Fest among list of recent events canceled Burnsville, Minnesota – July 24, 2014 – Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been hearing lots of complaints about various fun runs that have been cancelled with short notice, often with no refunds offered. Last week, BBB of Greater Cleveland reported on a 5K Foam Fest that was cancelled with just four days’ notice. An email to paid participants said “Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide you with a refund.” A similar event scheduled for August in St. Paul was also cancelled. The race website says they have ceased operations as of July 17. Another race company has offered Foam Fest participants a discount code for future theme races. These 5K Foam Fest events were to be put on by Round House Racing Team, which is based in Utah. Since the cancellation was announced, BBB Utah has received 90 complaints from participants looking for refunds of the $45-75 registration fees they were charged. BBB is processing those complaints now, and an Alert was added to the company’s BBB Business Review. This cancellation news came just a month after Runners’ World reported that the Electric Foam 5K had shut down after numerous race cancellations and an F rating with BBB for its parent company, Color Mania 5K. A number of BBBs and at least one national media outlet had been investigating the cancelled Electric Foam 5Ks when the company announced it was closing down all the events. Some participants received refunds through Groupon. The company’s website said it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are thinking about participating in a themed fun run, here are some BBB tips: Do your research. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review and search online for additional information before signing up. Understand the terms and conditions. In some cases, promoters say on their websites that they don’t offer refunds, but many consumers don’t read the fine print before hitting “I agree” to long online documents. Check the local venue. Contact the park or other venue to confirm that the event is scheduled. Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot. Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference. Check out the charity. Most fun runs are for-profit, but if the promoters claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, check it out on give.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to more famous charities. For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org and for the latest, check out our blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

According to the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin:

etter Business Bureau has been hearing lots of complaints about various fun runs that have been cancelled with short notice, often with no refunds.

This week, BBB Serving Wisconsin received forty-seven complaints from paid participants of the Dirty Girl Mud Run planned for Charleston, West Virginia. Complainants stated the run was cancelled with a four days’ notice. The complaints are currently pending. However, in February 2014, BBB received two dozen complaints from paid participants of a mud run scheduled for Raleigh, North Carolina. Complainants reported its venue was rescheduled for a different city a few weeks before the run. Dirty Girl Mud Run responded to all of the complaints filed by the BBB Serving Wisconsin in February and provided refunds. According to the company’s website, it currently states, “We have a strict no refund policy and refunds will not be issued under any circumstances.”

Last week, BBB of Greater Cleveland reported on a 5K Foam Fest that was cancelled with just four days’ notice. An email to paid participants said “Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide you with a refund.” A similar event scheduled for southern California was also cancelled with the same “no refund” email. The race website says they have ceased operations as of July 17. Another race company has offered Foam Fest participants a discount code for future theme races.

The two 5K Foam Fest events were to be put on by Round House Racing Team, which is based in Utah. Since the cancellation was announced, BBB Utah has received 90 complaints from participants looking for refunds of the $45-75 registration fees they were charged. The BBB is processing those complaints now, and an Alert was added to the company’s BBB Business Review.

This cancellation news came just a month after Runners’ World reported that the Electric Foam 5K had shut down after numerous race cancellations and an F rating with BBB for its parent company, Color Mania 5K. A number of BBBs and at least one national media outlet had been investigating the cancelled Electric Foam 5Ks when the company announced it was closing down all the events. Some participants received refunds through Groupon. The company’s website said it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you are thinking about participating in a themed fun run, here are some BBB tips:

  • Do your research. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review and search online for additional information before signing up.
  • Understand the terms and conditions. In some cases, promoters say on their websites that they don’t offer refunds, but many consumers don’t read the fine print before hitting “I agree” to long online documents.
  • Check the local venue. Contact the park or other venue to confirm that the event is scheduled.
  • Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot.
  • Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.
  • Check out the charity. Most fun runs are for-profit, but if the promoters claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, check it out ongive.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to more famous charities.

For an on online version of this story click here.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on TwitterFacebook and You Tube.

DATCP offers tips for buying propane

With summer in full swing, winter heating options are the last thing on the mind of most consumers. But energy experts are advising consumers to plan ahead for their propane needs this winter by looking at options now and buying early. To assist Wisconsin consumers, DATCP is offering a new fact sheet explaining propane options, including questions to ask when comparing offers.

“Propane suppliers offer a wide variety of pricing agreements and delivery options, and consumers are more likely to get a better price when they buy early,” said Sandy Chalmers, Administrator of Trade and Consumer Protection. “Research options, ask questions, and get everything in writing.”

The new DATCP fact sheet includes background on common delivery options and pricing structures to help consumers weigh their options when buying propane. It also includes key questions for the consumer to ask, aimed at allowing the consumer to compare contracts. Download the fact sheet from the DATCP website (http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Factsheets/index.aspx) or request a copy by mail by calling 1-800-422-7128.

“The propane contract sets the terms of the agreement between a propane marketer and a consumer, so make sure you read and understand the terms of the contract before you sign,” said Chalmers. “Pay special attention to provisions on added fees and surcharges and how credits and refunds will be applied.”

Other tips to consider include:

Pricing agreements. Budget plans, pre-pay plans, and fixed-price plans can offer consumers savings when compared to buying at market price. Knowing your tank size and your typical propane usage can help you get the best price and avoid over- or under-buying. If you use up your contracted amount before the end of the season, you may have to pay the market price for additional propane. If you overbuy, your retail marketer may credit your account for the following year, depending on the terms of your contract.

Delivery arrangements. Some retail marketers offer to deliver propane automatically to refill your tank. Others allow you to monitor your usage and call when you need a delivery. Make sure you know how much advance time your retail marketer needs to schedule a delivery.

Ask about fees and other charges. When you compare between retail marketers, don’t ask only about per-gallon cost. Retail marketers may charge a variety of add-on fees, including trip fees, after-hours delivery charges, weekend fees, partial fills and inspection fees. Those fees can have a major impact on your total out-of-pocket costs.

Get a signed and dated contract and keep copies of receipts for at least a year. No matter what kind of agreement you reach, a written contract sets out the rights and responsibilities of both the buyer and seller. Receipts are handy to have if there is a dispute between you and your propane supplier.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, call the Consumer Information Hotline at 1-800-422-7128 or send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov.

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Home Security Alarms – How to choose the right company

The installation of a home security system is much more common than in years past. In fact, many newer homes come already equipped with them. Not only can a security system provide a line of defense against intruders, it can, in some cases, help lower insurance premiums as well as help ensure personal safety and the safety of family members. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers some advice on things people should consider before signing an agreement with a home security company.

“Security systems can offer homeowners additional peace of mind, but people should always pay attention to warning signals when searching for the right company,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

A good place to start this process is to determine whether you are going to purchase the alarm or lease it. If you purchase the system, you’ll own the equipment outright. A leased system may cost less initially, but it won’t belong to you and could be removed from your home once you discontinue your service or switch companies.

Most alarm systems are linked to a central monitoring center. It’s a good idea to see if the company installing the alarm will be the one monitoring your system. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of the company providing monitoring services. You’ll want to research them as well at bbb.org.

Another good question to ask a salesperson is, ‘What is the process?’ For instance, when an alarm is triggered, some security firms call the homeowner first and only alert the authorities if no one answers or if the property owner confirms there’s a problem. Ask for their procedures in writing as far as exactly what will happen when your alarm goes off, so you know what to expect. The monthly cost of monitoring can vary, so it’s also worthwhile to get an idea of the market rate. Systems that are not monitored rely solely on a siren as a form of deterrent.

Since alarm systems are available in a wide range of prices and technologies, customers have a number of options to choose from. The most economical systems usually include a control panel, keypad, door and window sensors, and a siren. More advanced systems may include advanced keypad options, glass break sensors, and heat and carbon monoxide sensors. Some households only need the basics while others want the deluxe package – which now includes video security systems so that homeowners can actually see what’s happening inside their house. Decide which options best suit your needs.
In recent years more and more households have switched from traditional landlines to cell phones and Internet-based lines. Making a switch midway through your contract may affect your alarm service. Ask the sales representative what your options are in the event you decide to discontinue the use of a landline.

It’s also important to know that most companies will require you to sign anywhere from a 24 to 60 month contract for monitoring. This is especially true if they installed the alarm system. Consumers who cancel before their contract expires are often subject to hefty cancellation fees. Before you sign up with anyone, be sure to ask how long your contract is for and what the cancellation policies are. In discussions with your sales representative, ask what would happen if the company were to be bought out. Also, don’t rely on oral promises; get everything in writing.

Furthermore, be aware that it is a common practice within this industry to use “evergreen contracts.” If proper notice has not been given, an evergreen contract automatically renews upon expiration. Companies often require consumers to provide notice of their intent to discontinue service at least 30 days in advance. It is the consumer’s responsibility to know when the contract expires and to give notice by the cut-off date stipulated in the contract. If you end up signing an evergreen contract, it’s a good idea to place a label in a visible area near the alarm to remind you when the contract expires and when the cancellation must be made.

Other things to consider:

  • Alarm companies frequently send sales teams to canvass neighborhoods in search of new customers. If you already have a home security system and the sales representative tells you that your service is about to expire, don’t take their word for it. Contact your alarm company and verify the expiration date on your contract. If the company claims they are acting on behalf of your current alarm company, verify that as well.
  • It’s a good idea to ask for identification. A reputable salesperson will provide you with all the information you request, including ID and a business card. It’s always a good idea to contact the company directly to ensure the person on your doorstep is an employee.
  • Does the sales person have a solicitor’s license from the city you’re in?
  • Ask about false alarms – will you be charged?
  • Avoid snap decisions. Tell the salesperson you will consider the offer and get back to him or her after doing your research. Watch out for high-pressure sales pitches.
  • Always research companies at bbb.org.

Out of State Tax Notices May Signal Identity Theft

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has recently received reports of what appears to be a new trend in identity theft: consumers are receiving notices from tax agencies in other states about filed tax returns.
The consumers didn’t earn income or file tax returns in those states, but the state tax agency letters say their return is under review.
“Don’t assume the letter is just a clerical error. If a tax return was filed using your personal information, you may be the victim of identity theft,” said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. “Take immediate steps to protect your identity.”
Identity thieves use personal information to file fraudulent tax returns in hopes of getting a refund. If you believe you may be the victim of identity theft, DATCP recommends these immediate first steps:
? Contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert
? Order your credit reports and review them for unexpected activities
? File a police report about the incident
? Review this DATCP fact sheet on identity theft: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/IdentityTheftWhatToDo602.pdf
DATCP is working with the Internal Revenue Service, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the states that sent the notifications. If you receive a similar letter in the mail, please file a complaint on the DATCP website (http://datcp.wi.gov) or contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 or by email at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov.

Have You Been ‘Wowed’ by Great Customer Service?

The BBB wants to know! Nominate a deserving company or charity today!
Milwaukee, Wis. – The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau Center for Character Ethics is now accepting nominations and online applications through February 9, 2015 for the 2015 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics.The Torch Awards for Ethics were created to honor ethical Wisconsin companies and charities whose leaders demonstrate a high level of personal character and ensure that the organization’s practices meet the highest standards of ethics. These organizations build trust among their employees, customers and their communities by advertising honestly, remaining transparent, and honoring their promises.Anyone can nominate a business or a charitable organization. For more information or to nominate, go to http://www.bbb.org/wisconsin/torch-award/ or contact Carole Milos at cmilos@wisconsin.bbb.org or call 414-847-6064.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on TwitterFacebook and You Tube.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org/wisconsin. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Wisconsin was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.

Shipping/Reshipping Scheme Claiming Milwaukee Addresses

Milwaukee, Wis. – The BBB Serving Wisconsin is warning consumers nationwide of a shipping and reshipping scam believed to be using Milwaukee office building addresses.The BBB file opened on “Pick And Send” (which is also doing business under the name “Ship-It-Now”) on May 16, 2014. Since then, our office has been receiving roughly six inquiries per day, from consumers across the country who report being contacted by this company and offered a work-at-home “shipping and receiving operator” job.

Consumers from Missouri and Kansas tell the BBB that, after they accepted the “job”, they were required to send a copy of their driver’s license, and were then sent boxes containing toys, iPhones, iPads, and other items that they were then instructed to reship to Moscow, Russia. Payments of up to $1700 per month were promised but never received.

The telephone numbers this company is using and listing on its websites have 414 and 262 area codes, but are in fact Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIp) numbers. A VoIP call may appear local or have a U.S. area code, but in fact, can be coming from outside the country.

Emails sent to the company by the BBB have gone unanswered. The BBB has not been able to get through to the company via its listed telephone numbers.

The addresses the company lists on its websites are downtown Milwaukee office buildings. However, after checking with building management for both buildings, the BBB has confirmed that neither building has ever had a tenant with these names.

Neither “Pick And Send” nor “Ship-It-Now” are incorporated nor registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (Secretary of State), according to its website, and neither can be found as listed businesses in the state.

According to the URL information, www.pick-and-send.com was created on 3/3/14 and has a private domain. Its registration address is Queensland, Australia. The website has been suspended as of 6/26/14.

According to the URL information, http://www.send-it-off.com/?p=index was created on 6/2/14 and also has a private domain. Its registration address is also Queensland, Australia.

Shipping/Reshipping scams typically have the following signs:

  1. Company initiates contact with you from a generic or free online web email address.
  2. Company website domain was recently registered.
  3. Company requires you to receive and ship packages (normally overseas) for a promised commission.
  4. Company claims to reimburse for shipping costs or provides a carrier account number (likely set up through stolen financial information or is stolen account information from a legitimate company).
  5. Company is not located in the United States or is conducting business only with clients overseas.
  6. Misspelled words and grammatical errors appear in the job offer and corresponding emails.
  7. Employment starts without a face to face interview. The employer requires personal information without providing a detailed job description.
  8. Company information cannot be verified.
  9. Job description promises high income for very little time and effort; no experience necessary.

The BBB urges extreme caution when responding to job ads via email and reminds consumers if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Consumers with cross-border complaints can report them to the Federal Trade Commission:  https://econsumer.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ and the FBI’s IC3 website: http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on TwitterFacebook and You Tube.

BBB’s Top Five Summer Scams

Summer is a great time to take that long-overdue vacation or make much-needed home repairs, but as the weather heats up, so do scams. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) is warning consumers about these popular summer schemes.

Don’t let a scam ruin your vacation. Fake travel agents and websites are known for touting too-good-to-be-true deals in the hopes of getting your money in return. Whether it’s a fake timeshare rental or a falsely promised Disney vacation, don’t let a vacation scam take you for a ride. Make sure the offer is legitimate by checking bbb.org first. If there is no BBB Business Review on the company, dig deeper: Google the phone number or website to see if others have reported problems.

Keep your belongings safe during your move. Summer is the peak time of year for changing residencies, and unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of the busy season. Always research the company and check out the mover’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate (or binding), and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Also remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer, which may cost you more in the end.

Beware of summer concert ticket scams. Before paying for concert tickets online, make sure the seller is reputable. Oftentimes, phony sellers will trick consumers into wiring money with no intention of sending real tickets. Most concert venues now allow ticket holders to print tickets from personal computers, which also gives scammers the opportunity to sell the same ticket over and over to unsuspecting consumers. Be wary of sellers who: offer a sad tale as to why they cannot use the tickets; only accept cash; want the money wired or transferred through a prepaid account; and/or pressure you to act quickly.

Be wary of high pressure door-to-door sales tactics. Many legitimate companies use door-to-door sales, and various city ordinances regulate solicitors to protect residents from unscrupulous individuals. However, consumers need to watch for individuals who try to work their way around the system to line their pockets. Many door-to-door salesmen offer deals for everything from driveway paving to air conditioning repair to security systems. Before saying yes, get all promises in writing, including start and finish dates. Never sign a contract that has an open-ended completion date or blank spaces

Beware of job scams that can turn a hot summer cold. Finding summer employment is a top priority for most college and high school students. Don’t let the seasonal job hunt turn into a huge waste of time and money. Always be wary of employers who require fees for training and background checks, or who tout “no experience needed.” BBB considers these red flags for employment scams.

Find out more about scams and sign up for scam alerts at BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org and for the latest, check out our blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

BBB Warns of Robocalls

Milwaukee, Wis. – The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is warning Wisconsinites about recent robocalls –prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers–being reported throughout the state.Telemarketing sales calls with recorded messages are generally illegal unless you have given the company or caller written permission to call you.

Consumers have reported receiving phone calls which appear to be from local phone numbers, some report the calls are, in fact, similar to their own home phone number. However, BBB believes the calls are likely not local, and probably coming from overseas perpetrators  who purchase lists of cell and home phone numbers, or use robocall capabilities to randomly dial. Using a technique called “spoofing”, criminals attempt to trick customers into thinking a call is coming from a legitimate home or business.

The BBB has received numerous calls within the last few days, and other BBB’s throughout the country recently report the same. The BBB is advising consumers to use caution when providing information over the phone.

Here’s how the scheme works: Your phone rings, the number may look familiar, local, or within the U.S. When the call is answered, a computerized voice claims to have methods to lower your credit card interest rates. They then may require you to provide a credit card number.

“Con artists use software and devices to dial over the internet, and can then make any business name and phone number appear on caller I.D.”, said Ran Hoth, CEO and President of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. “This hijacking scheme allows callers to attempt to gain your trust, as well as your important personal or financial information.”

On September 1, 2009, unwanted robocalls became prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls. As part of the Telemarketing Sales Rule , sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages can face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

Before responding to unsolicited phone calls, the BBB advises:

  • Never give out any financial information. If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card or social security numbers over the phone to unknown callers.
  • Don’t rely on caller ID. Scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses or organizations.
  • Hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
  • Consider contacting your phone provider. Ask your provider to block the number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
  • Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right to you, end the call.
  • Report robocalls. File a complaint with the FTC on their website or by calling 1-888-382-1222.