Better Business Bureau: Penny auctions, credit scores and dating
With the beginning of a new year, we at Better Business Bureau would like to challenge everyone to be safer this year. Following these five simple resolutions will help:
• Do your research. Whether it's a business you're looking to hire or a product you're looking to buy, do your research. Check out a business at bbb.org to see its BBB Business Review.
• Get it in writing. Don't take a business's word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing.
• Never wire money to someone you don't know. Many scams require money to be wired back to the scammers. I think I have mentioned this a few times before.
• Protect your identity. Always shred paper documents and dispose of computers, cellphones and digital data safely. Store all personal documents and pull your credit report at least once a year.
• Limit the amount of information shared on social media pages. Unfortunately, social media has been and will continue to be a wonderful information and prospecting source for schemers.
BBB is seeing a surge again of online penny auction sites such as "ZBiddy." We are warning consumers that they should do their research before making any bids. With penny auctions, typically users set up an account and purchase bids with a debit or credit card. Each bid may cost less than a dollar and are often sold in bundles of 100 or more.
Every item in the auction has a countdown clock and as people place bids, the cost of the item goes up and more time is added to the clock. Each bid costs money, and if you don't win the product, you still have to pay for those bids placed. Read carefully the terms and conditions of any offer. Be sure to pay close attention to details such as minimum bidding requirements and how to get a refund.
The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates. It's so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry.
It's a way to get a sense of someone's financial past. It's difficult to quantify how many daters factor credit scores into their romantic calculations, but marriage counselors and dating site executives say they are hearing far more concerns about credit than in the past.
As usual, this time of year consumers are turning their thoughts to joining a health club to get in shape and lose some pounds. BBB advises consumers to consider these tips before signing a contract:
• Research the gym at bbb.org to see its BBB Business Review.
• Consider your budget. Most facilities charge an up-front membership fee to join and a monthly fee thereafter. In addition, some fitness centers charge an additional fee for certain services.
• Ask around and visit each club on a day and time that you plan to use it to see how crowded each club will be at the times you want to access the equipment.
• Get membership details. It is vital to understand how long the membership term is, whether it automatically renews and what steps you have to take in order to cancel.
Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.