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Better Business Bureau: Payday, car title loans

By By Alan Bligh
Dec. 22, 2012 at 6:22 a.m.


Better Business Bureau is warning consumers looking for payday or car title loans to research a company or website's reputation and read all the fine print before giving your personal information or signing any agreements. These lenders offer short-term loans for those whose credit is not good enough to obtain a credit card or bank loan.

The Better Business Bureau receives a large number of inquiries and complaints on this type of business. Many of those complaints allege fraud - including companies initiating loans or withdrawing money without permission, or calling to collect a debt that the consumer claims was never owed. Other complaints allege poor customer service or unscrupulous collection tactics.

Consumer advocates have been warning those who are cash-strapped for years about the predatory practices of payday and car title lenders. In Texas, payday and car title lenders are required to obtain a license and display a schedule of fees in a visible location in the store. The high fees and interest rates charged by this industry prompted the federal government to take action. In 2006, Congress banned lenders from offering payday or car title loans to members of the military. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission warned that some of the fees on short-term loans can add up to 650 percent interest.



Advice on toy safety

OK, it's old hat, warning you about toy safety, but I think we can agree that it is very important. So take note. Back in the day, lawn darts were the height of toy fashion. Now, parents gasp at the idea of giving their children a flying projectile with a sharp metal point. Safety has become paramount to both toy manufacturers and law makers. A report recently released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated there were 193,200 toy-related injuries to children younger than 15 years old in 2011. Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to ensure that the toys you give are safe.

Find out which toys have been recalled. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at recalls.gov. If the toy or product has been recalled, check the guidelines for what to do next.

Make sure the toy is age-appropriate. Toy safety isn't only about avoiding recalled products; you also need to make sure you're buying appropriate toys for the age of the child.

Be cautious of older toys or hand-me-downs. While buying a gently-used toy might be cost effective, they may not meet current safety standards and could be too worn from play that they break and become hazardous.

Be careful when shopping online. Internet toy vendors may not be as vigilant as brick and mortar stores about pulling recalled products off the shelf.



Skype scammer scheme

Another high tech scam is here, this time involving Skype, the rather nifty program that allows people to converse by audio and video. Skype has been battling wily adversaries who are abusing the Internet, calling application to direct people to scam websites. The automated calls feature a computer-generated voice that tells the victim to visit a specific website, which often is selling bogus security software.

The scammers are abusing a feature in Skype that by default allows users to receive unsolicited calls from any other Skype user. Skype considered changing the default setting, but a sampling of users polled found they didn't want it to change for convenience reasons. That has left Skype to undertake other technical means to stop the problem.

Skype relies in part on users to report scam calls so the suspect accounts can be deactivated. The best way to stop the calls is to change Skype's privacy settings to only allow communications from vetted contacts.

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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