Better Business Bureau: Cash back scams, penny auctions, beware

Dec. 24, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.

By Alan Bligh

There is a new scam to keep us on our toes.

The scam is called the Cash Back Scam and works like this: when a consumer goes to purchase their items at the cash register, the employee checking them out selects the "cash back" option without the consumer knowing. Once the consumer leaves with their merchandise the employee pockets whatever cash back amount they had selected.

Take the time to protect yourself. With each purchase you make, look at your receipt and confirm what was rang up is correct and that no additional charges, or cash back options, were added without your knowing. This must be done while you are standing there in front of the cashier.

If you have been a victim of this scam share your story with us and report it to the store's management.

With the promise of high-end items at a 95 percent reduction in price, many consumers have been lured to penny auction sites and ended up losing hundreds of dollars.

Penny auctions may look like a good deal, but many consumers don't factor in the cost of bids. As a result, they sometimes end up paying more than the item is worth.

Penny auction sites charge consumers a set price for each bid, usually around 50 cents to $1. The winner of the auction is not the highest bid, but rather, the last bid when time runs out.

BBB advises people to know what the item is worth. Consumers have complained that they thought they were getting a good deal but they later found out they could have purchased the item they won cheaper somewhere else.

Consumers are reporting they're receiving letters, with checks enclosed, from an organization calling itself RS Consulting Group. The checks are for between $1,300 and $2,500, and the letters claim to offer employment as mystery shoppers. Recipients are urged to spend some of the money at various stores and then wire back a significant portion of the funds via Western Union to the organization making this offer.

An Internet search reveals there is a UK-based company called RS Consulting, with a subsidiary called RS Consulting Group; however, this organization is not involved with this offer, nor do they employ secret shoppers. So beware, bogus mystery shopping scams are widespread. Always check with BBB.

The Texas Attorney General has charged a Houston debt collection firm with violating the Texas Finance Code. First Integral Recovery is a third-party collector hired by creditors to collect outstanding, short-term payday loan payments.

According to the state's enforcement action, First Integral Recovery's representatives unlawfully claimed that the firm is associated with law enforcement agencies. The defendant's staff told debtors they faced arrest, prosecution and imprisonment because of their delinquent debt.

In addition to improperly misleading debtors about First Integral Recovery's law enforcement ties, the state's enforcement action cited the defendant for using profanity.

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



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