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Schemes and scams

May 21, 2011 at 12:21 a.m.


By Alan Bligh

It's unusual to get a consumer alert from the Texas Department of Public Safety. I think you will find this one interesting. The DPS is urging Texas residents to make sure that any alarm salesperson, company or alarm installer that they hire is licensed by the DPS Regulatory Services Division.

BBB receives many calls concerning door-to-door alarm salespeople. The DPS says, "If someone offering alarm-related services shows up at your door unsolicited, ask them for their DPS Private Security pocket card, which will also have their picture. Do not accept any other form of identification as proof you are dealing with a licensed salesperson or installer."

Alarm companies and installers must be licensed to operate legally in the state of Texas.

The good news is that the licensing process includes a criminal background check to help ensure the safety of the public. To check whether a salesperson or installer is licensed in Texas, please visit the following link: www.txdps.state.tx.us/psb/individual/individual_search.aspx.

To check whether an alarm company is licensed in Texas, please visit the following link:

www.txdps.state.tx.us/psb/company/company_search.aspx

As the grass turns green this spring, homeowners may be considering hiring a service to rejuvenate lawns or take care of routine chores like lawn-mowing and trimming in the coming months.

To avoid headaches or misunderstandings, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to make sure you and the lawn service have clear, written expectations for what the company will provide for the agreed-upon fees.

Many complaints on lawn care services center on service issues, such as whether the company performed expected services or did unauthorized work. Other complaints were about billing issues or sales tactics.

Remember to request a written contract. A contract should clearly state the services you will receive, as well as how you will pay for it. If you are contracting for a recurring service, it should state how often the company will mow your lawn.

And a special note - often such contracts contain "negative options," which means the company will automatically return to perform their services next season unless you tell them not to.

"Earn thousands of dollars from home, by being part of one of America's fastest growing industries!" Sounds promising, right? Be your own boss, no experience necessary, and the ad even says "no risk." All you have to do is send $100 to get started!

If it sounds too good to be true . Guess what? It probably is.

Work-at-home schemes are one of the oldest types of consumer fraud, originating during the Great Depression in the 1920s with "envelope stuffing." The most common work-at-home schemes are:

1. Envelope Stuffing.

2. Product Assembly.

3. Medical Billing.

4. Package Forwarding and Reshipping.

Before you consider answering an ad for a work-at-home business, make sure to check out the company with your Better Business Bureau.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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