Better Business Bureau: Consumer trends for 2013



Thanks to you

We can't end our final week of 2012 without telling you how much we appreciate your kind words and encouragement. Hopefully, these articles have saved you and our communities from losing lots of money. We want to thank the Victoria Advocate for all of its support. If you have any topical suggestion for our articles, please let us know. And finally, a big Happy New Year from our Better Business Bureau president, Carrie Hurt. We all look forward to a prosperous and probably rather interesting new year.



College grants

'Tis the season, and we don't mean Christmas. We are talking about finding that college financial help that will be needed by fall. High school seniors receive letters and emails this time of year, offering free grant money or help in finding grants and scholarships - for a fee. Be careful before you accept any offers. Free grant money offers are usually tied to checks that are supposedly linked to private or government grants. They tell you to deposit the check and to wire money to cover processing fees. The red flag is to "wire money." You guessed it; the checks are fake. You end up paying and receive nothing.



Consumer trends for 2013

A new year is here. And what interesting consumer issues it will bring? There will be an increasing problem with investment fraud. Investing can be very confusing, and the schemers take advantage of this. BBB is gearing up to tackle this situation with new materials and presentations on "How to Invest" or we should say "How Not to Invest." One reason for the upsurge is the growing number of baby boomers. Many have considerable disposable income and do not have a clue as to how to invest. There will be an increase in job scams mainly because of the Eagle Ford Shale Project. But the biggest issue is technology which is moving us from multitasking to hypertasking. This is not all bad, but there are plenty of pitfalls.



White van scam

A new scam may be approaching our area. It's called the white van scam because sellers often use white vans since they are inexpensive to rent. The scammers offer items like speakers or laptops, using a distress pitch. For example, "The warehouse is full. The boss says I need to sell," or "These are left over from a delivery." If you fall for a so-called bargain sold out of a car or van on a parking lot, you'll likely end up with junk. A lot of people are really watching their budget, and they're hoping to find something like this. They're thinking, "Boy, it's my lucky day." The best tip is just do not do business with them, and if you have done business and lost some money, then report it to the police. As we always say: deal with people you can trust.



Free BBB services

As you know, BBB offers basically two free services to the public. One is information on businesses. Second is the processing of complaints by consumers against businesses. We can offer both mediation and arbitration to settle matters between parties. Another activity you may not be familiar with is that we make presentations to various organizations. Our topics include fighting identity theft, scams against seniors, protecting your business, outsmarting investment fraud and wise buying strategies for the military. So, if you are affiliated with a civic group, senior group, church group, business group - you get the message - give me a call, and we can arrange a speaking engagement for your organization.

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