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Don't pay for work before it's done

May 1, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

By Alan Bligh

Last week, we received a call from a Victoria consumer concerning a landscaping contractor. The lady had paid the contractor $500 up front for some yard work. The contractor did a little work and then disappeared. The biggest mistake the consumer made was to pay that much money up front before any work was done.

She at least paid by check rather than cash which would have been a major error. At least the consumer has proof of payment. I looked up the company in our database and found no information. Evidently, from what the consumer stated, this is a new business. It is important though for consumers to check with us at in case we do have a report. We do have nine reports on landscaping companies in the Victoria area. Only one is BBB accredited. That does not mean the non-accredited companies are necessarily bad, but consumers need to read the full reports to determine if the business is worthy of their patronage.

One of the more common tactics used by questionable businesses is to try and fool prospective customers into believing the business is really a part of government. This usually takes the form of a mail solicitation. For example, the postcard from a company by the name of Acc-U-Lead looks official but is a marketing tool that targets seniors. The yellow postcard supposedly offers to help senior citizens save money on their taxes. But it actually is a marketing ploy used by the Texas company to get consumers to reveal personal information. Acc-U-Lead collects the information from the returned cards and sells it to other businesses looking for leads to sell insurance annuities.

The postcard looks similar to a government notice. It is stamped "2010 Senior Income Tax Update" and "2010 Senior Tax Information." It is decorated with two American flags, and the return address is National Data Research Center in Dallas. One quick way to tell if the mailing is really from a government entity is to look at the postmark.

As you know, BBB issues rather detailed reports on charities. BBB charity reports are based on 20 Standards for Charity Accountability and provide objective information on matters such as charity finances, appeals and governance. Reports on more than 290 area charities are accessible at BBB recommends consumers keep the following tips in mind when considering charitable donations:

Watch for name confusion. Scammers may use names that sound similar to those of well-known organizations to confuse donors.

Question vague appeals. Make sure the charity clearly identifies the nature of its programs.

Be wary of high pressure tactics. Don't be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. And

Never donate large amounts of cash. It is difficult to prove for tax purposes and you really do not know where the money will wind up.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at



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