Better Business Bureau: Buying a car online? Watch out!

Aug. 20, 2011 at 3:20 a.m.

By Alan Bligh

I would like to begin by thanking the Victoria Rotary Club for having me out to make a presentation. My main topic concerned scams that are directed towards businesses. One thing I advised them to do was to conduct a "Google Vanity Check." OK, I can hear you asking, "What is a Google Vanity Check?" It is one of the most important things you can do to protect your business in this fast-paced social networking world. Simply enter the name of your business in Google, or the search engine of your choice. You need to see if there:

Are businesses with the same name as yours?

Are unhappy customers with complaints?

Is a disgruntled employee tarnishing your name?

Is a competitor criticizing your business?

Is someone who has stolen your business's name conducting a scam?

Remember, anyone can say anything these days, and the first step in heading off problems is to do your Vanity Google search.

Fraudulent vehicle sales

The FBI is warning the public that online vehicle shoppers are being victimized by fraudulent vehicle sales and false claims of vehicle protection programs. We see this almost every day, mostly from listings on Craigslist. In fraudulent vehicle sales, criminals attempt to sell vehicles they do not own. They create an attractive deal by advertising vehicles for sale at prices below book value. Often, the sellers claim they need to sell the vehicle because they are moving for work, to include military deployments. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the victim to send full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer payment service. The criminal pockets the payment but does not deliver the vehicle. Again, we see where the wiring of money is a major element of a scam.

Watch your phone bill

Third-party vendors are collecting billions of dollars in erroneous charges placed on mobile and land-line phone bills and consumers are getting little help from their telephone service providers with removing and preventing such charges, according to a report released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce. To protect yourself from unauthorized charges on your telephone bill, BBB offers the following tips:

Understand your mobile service plan

Keep a close eye on monthly statements.

Be cautious about free trials or sweepstakes.

Add restrictions to your account. Contact your service provider to see if you can completely restrict third-party billing on your account. This is really a great idea.

We received a call from a gentleman last week who received a notice that he had won big time in a lottery out of the UK. We told him it was a scam, of course. But he would not believe it. He just knew it was legit, and he had won big time. It was a scam, but what if the lottery was real? Remember, and I quote the Federal Trade Commission, if you play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the telephone, you're violating federal law. Also, if you enter such a lottery, plan on receiving tons of junk mail as your name will be put on a "sucker's list." And never give a credit card number or bank account number to anyone in anticipation of winning a lottery.

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



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia