by Nick LaFleur on May. 22, 2013, under Life, Politics, scam
Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans and active duty military for their service to our country. Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is alerting soldiers, veterans and their families to scams tied to or targeting the military.
“We can never give veterans and active soldiers enough thanks for their service,” said Kim States, BBB President. “Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of soldiers who are being deployed. Some scammers wrap their scams in patriotic themes designed to play on Americans’ debt of gratitude to veterans.”
Some common scams that target military personnel include:
- High-priced military loans – Purveyors of loans may make guarantees, promise instant approval or say their loans are available without credit checks. But the loans often include hidden fees or extremely high interest rates. Legitimate lenders will not guarantee a loan before you apply. Loans that require upfront fees are usually scams.
- Veterans’ benefits buyout plans – Cash payments may be offered in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. However, the cash is just 30 to 40 percent of what the veteran is entitled to. Buyout plans can be structured in different ways, so research thoroughly before signing anything over.
- Fake rental properties – Stolen photos of legitimate rental properties may be used in ads that promise military discounts or other incentives. Service members must pay security payments or fees via wire transfer to obtain a key. In the end, they receive nothing.
- Phony jury duty summons – A caller clams to work for the local court system and states that the service member did not show up for jury duty and now has a warrant out for their arrest. When the victim says they never got a summons, the caller will ask for a credit card number or Social Security number to clear up the matter.
- Misleading car sales – Websites posting classified ads will offer false discounts for military personnel or claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their vehicle fast since they are being deployed. Fees will be required via wire transfer. Then there’s either no car or the vehicle will have problems after purchase.
- Expensive life insurance policies – Members of the military often are targets of high-pressure sales pitches that offer unnecessary, expensive life insurance policies. Solicitors may make false statements regarding the benefits that these policies offer.
BBB advice for veterans, military or other consumers includes:
- Do your research. Get as much information as you can about a business or charity before you pay. Check out a business’ BBB Business Review or a charity’s Charity Review at www.bbb.org.
- Don’t wire transfer money to anyone you don’t know. Money sent via wire transfer is practically impossible to track. Pay by credit card whenever possible, since you can dispute charges easily.
- Protect your computer. Don’t click on links within unsolicited emails. Don’t enter personal information on unfamiliar websites. Make sure that you have updated anti-virus software installed and use a firewall at all times.
- Put an “active duty” alert on your credit reports when deployed. Doing so will minimize the risk of identity theft because creditors and businesses cannot issue or grant credit until they verify identity.
by Nick LaFleur on May. 21, 2013, under alert, Life, scam, Tips
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers to be on guard when it comes to high-pressure sales tactics over the next few months.
There are many businesses that go door-to-door selling everything from cosmetic products to magazine subscriptions. In 2012, BBB received over 1,700 complaints against door-to-door sales companies nationwide. Most complaints alleged products were paid for but never delivered, or refunds were not received upon cancellation.
During the summer months, BBB routinely receives an increase in complaints from consumers against businesses that employ aggressive door-to-door selling techniques. Some examples of high pressure sales tactics include hostile and persuasive rebuttals to consumer concerns, deep discounts offered upon immediate payment and refusal to take “no” for an answer.
While many businesses utilize door-to-door marketing tactics, BBB has these tips for consumers to consider when getting that knock on your door:
Door-to-door sales people are required to:
- Advise you orally and in writing of your right to cancel the sale within three days
- Provide a contract in the same language that was used in the sales presentation
The contract or receipt must:
- State the date of sale, name and address of the merchant
- Provide a statement of your right to cancel which includes the address of where to send your cancellation notice
To cancel a door-to-door sale:
- To obtain a full refund, you must do this before midnight of the third business day after the sale
Don’t be pressured to take advantage of a time-sensitive offer. Take time to decide whether you’re sure you want the product.
by Nick LaFleur on May. 20, 2013, under alert, Life
Short-term home rentals are soaring in popularity amongst homeowners and out-of-towners. As the summer music festivals approach, and with the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays just around the corner, many homeowners may choose to offer their home as a short-term rental.
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona has these helpful and important tips to follow if you’re planning to rent out your home.
- Decide who will manage the property. If you decide to manage the property yourself, make sure you live close enough and are capable of handling any emergency issues that arise. If you don’t live close, make sure you know someone who can help take care of your property and address any issues a guest may have.
- If you decide to use a management company, research the organization first at bbb.org. Get all fees involved with listing your property and booking your rental in writing. Request detailed descriptions, in writing, of all the additional services to be provided and how and when you can expect to receive payment. Also, consider whether or not the company has its own insurance policy to cover any damages caused by the tenant.
- Write up a contract. BBB advises having an attorney go over the details of the contract. The contract should include:
- Check in and checkout times
- Whether smoking or pets are permitted
- Details of any security or damage deposits, whether they are refundable and under what circumstances
- A cancellation and rate change policy
- The maximum occupancy and any fees associated with exceeding the limit
- Parking restrictions
- The renter’s contact information
- Check state and city law. Various cities and states have their own rental and property laws. Check your city’s law on short-term rentals to make sure you’re not in violation.
- Research renters. Get the appropriate contact information for renters and check them out. Consider a Google search or use an online screening service.
- Check your insurance coverage. Ensure you have enough property or casualty insurance should anything go wrong. Also consider the costs of lost, stolen or damaged items and ensure your security deposit covers all the “what-ifs.”
- Consult your rental agreement. If you rent your home or apartment, your contract could prohibit subletting. Be sure to check with your landlord or HOA about short-term visitors.
For potential home renters, BBB warns to be on the lookout for phony ads on classified sites and other internet sources aimed at cheating consumers. In the past, scammers have copied property information and pictures, creating fake listings. They will accept all forms of payments to appear legitimate only to have the consumer find out the home was not for rent and their up-front payment is gone. Use reliable rental websites, with more safeguards in place, rather than free-listing classified websites.