Better Business Bureau: Door-to-door scam in our area

Jan. 20, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 21, 2011 at 7:22 p.m.

By Alan Bligh

We start with an alert to seniors and their caregivers to be careful about letting strangers into your home. You never know who it may be. A report from Sugar Land provides a good example.

People are going around claiming that they are financial planners with the Area Agency on Aging. Once in the home, they ask to get on the person's computer to load software relating to financial planning. Instead, they get the person's credit card information and then start charging the card. Of course, Area Agency on Aging does not offer financial planning. Schemers often use the name of legitimate organizations. If in doubt, contact the agency. Letting strangers into your home is really inviting trouble. If someone becomes aggressive, do not hesitate to call the police.

Another warning. Be aware of sneaky online membership programs. Here is how it works. You're buying from a large, reputable website but just before you click the "confirm" button on your purchase, you see a pop-up window or banner ad with an offer such as "$10 Cash Back on Your Next Purchase!" Here's the catch. By accepting that so-called deal, you're agreeing to enroll in a Web discount program that's run by a completely separate company. Those programs, which have names such as "Reservation Rewards," "Travel Values Plus" or "Great Fun," often provide a 30-day trial period during which you get discounts on a variety of merchandise and services. After that, a monthly membership fee, usually $10 to $20, will appear on your credit card. And, of course, it really helps to read the fine print and print out a copy of any agreement.

Phishing, as you know, is when you receive an e-mail from a supposedly trustworthy source such as your bank or Pay Pal, claiming a problem with your account and asking for your user name and password. Now we have what's called "Smishing." It is the latest twist on this type of scam - instead of getting an e-mail, you get a text message. The word "smishing" is a combination of "SMS," for short message service, aka text messaging, and "phishing." You're told to call a toll-free number, which is answered by a bogus interactive voice response system that tries to fool you into providing your account number and password. To prevent it, if you get a text alert about an account, don't respond before you verify that it's legitimate. Call your real institution for verification.

BBB handles complaints involving marketplace issues. To help you file a complaint in the future and avoid delays, BBB offers the following five tips:

The Texas Workforce Commissions, not BBB, handles Employee vs. Employer Disputes.

Ask for a resolution. Many people fail to state clearly what they want as a resolution to the problem.

Punitive damages are not allowed.

Keep your complaint professional, improper language and name calling will result in the complaint being returned.

Double check your contact information. We need full addresses, etc. in order to proceed with the complaint.

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



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