According to year-end statistics, Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona provided more than 690,000 instances of service to local consumers in 2012, up 30 percent from 2011.
The increase in service was driven in part by a 64 percent increase in consumer requests for industry specific lists of BBB Accredited Businesses, and a 27 percent increase in consumer requests for specific BBB Business Reviews. Consumers usually request the business “rosters” and Business Reviews when deciding on a company to do business with.
Despite the overall increase in instances of service, complaints filed with BBB were down one percent compared with 2011. Southern Arizona businesses successfully resolved 69 percent of complaints through BBB’s voluntary process, with Accredited Businesses leading the way, resolving 97 percent of their complaints, while non-Accredited Businesses resolved 57 percent of the complaints filed against them.
Based on BBB’s experience in 2012, here are the top five scams or pitfalls that Southern Arizona consumers should be on the lookout for going into 2013:
Deceptive Mail: BBB offices took hundreds of calls in 2012 from recipients of deceptive letters in the mail. Many of these letters had the appearance of a bill or invoice, but were simply solicitations for services or products. There were also reports of letters that told recipients they’d won free airline tickets, but of course, they didn’t. Fraudulent sweepstakes letters also continued to be a prevalent scam.
Auto Repair Services: In 2012 Southern Arizona consumers filed more complaints against auto repair services than any other industry, and only 64 percent of those complaints were resolved. BBB currently gives 36 Southern Arizona auto repair services letter grades of a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ for either not answering or not resolving complaints filed against them. While there are many more auto repair services that resolve their complaints, and maintain ‘A’ grades, BBB strongly recommends that consumers consult www.tucson.bbb.org to find a reliable auto repair service next time your car is on the fritz.
Smartphone Malware: Whether its mobile apps loaded with malware, counterfeit QR codes that take smartphone users to websites that load viruses onto their phones, or Near Field Communication-a technology which allows two devices to exchange data when in the proximity of each other-scammers who use the new technology to remotely steal information from your phone, 2013 promises to see its fill of mobile phone related scams. Consumers should be cautious before downloading any new app or scanning a QR code without ensuring it comes from a legitimate source. If your smartphone has NFC technology make sure you leave it switched off except when you need to use it. This will prevent thieves from breaking into your phone without you knowing it.
Debt/Mortgage Relief: For many Southern Arizona consumers 2012 was yet another tough year financially, and many people are still looking for ways to get out of debt or keep their homes. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of desperate situations. Bogus mortgage and debt relief programs will continue to pop up in 2013. People will receive offers and solicitations that they think are the answer to prayers, but they will just escalate the problem. Check out mortgage and debt relief programs before doing business with them. And, be extremely wary of checks that show up by surprise in your mailbox.
Internet Shopping: As more consumers turned to the Internet in 2012 to make purchases, complaints about Internet shopping increased as well. Complaints were about non-delivery of items paid for, late delivery and customer service issues. One Southern Arizona-based online company called Blade Empire-which sells knives and swords-tallied 19 unanswered complaints from consumers around the country who say they never received the products they ordered.
For more information on scams and other marketplace issues, consumers can contact BBB by calling (520)888-5353 or by visiting www.tucson.bbb.org.