Better Business Bureau: Put a stop to scams

July 13, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

This month, Western Union and Better Business Bureau announced efforts to put a stop to scams that target seniors. The most common scams that target seniors involve prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries.

Another is the emergency or grandparent scam, in which the scammer pretends to be a family member in trouble and asks for money to be wired immediately.

Visit and sign up to receive our Scam Stopper Alerts and weekly emails to get the latest tips on how to spot scams. Western Union promotes three basic money transfer "nevers." •  Never send money to someone you have not met in person.

•  Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it's a real emergency with family members.

•  Never send funds received by check until it officially clears in your account.

Research a mechanic before car repair

Your Better Business Bureau received 400 complaints last year about auto repair and service shops.

The majority of those complaints allege repair work did not solve the problem, repairs took longer than expected, final costs differed from the estimated cost and companies refused to honor guarantees.

Whether you are in need of an oil change or a new transmission, finding the right repair shop can save you time, money and a headache.

Follow these tips from Better Business Bureau next time you're in need of car repairs:•  Take your time and get multiple estimates. Better Business Bureau advises consumers to get three written quotes from three different repair shops.

•  Find trustworthy shops through Visit Better Business Bureau member pages to find a Better Business Bureau Accredited mechanic or auto repair shop.

•  Ask for a follow-up after the problem is found. Many shops will charge a diagnostic fee to research a car issue. However, the company should get your permission before doing any repair work on your vehicle.

•  Ask for warranty information. An auto repair shop should have no issue providing the warranty in writing. If they refuse, that's a red flag.

Charity scams

There is an entire industry of charities where the money donated overwhelmingly goes to the paid companies that do the fundraising. Groups like these rely on telephone solicitations to collect donations.

The Center for Investigative Reporting and Tampa Bay Times researched the 50 worst charities in America. Among them, they found money that went to the cause itself was about 4 cents of every dollar donated.

Typically, charity rating organizations want to see fundraising costs no higher than 35 percent, and many major charities are far below that. Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance offers tips on how to avoid donating to a for-profit operation. •  Don't make a donation on a call from a fundraiser. A legitimate charity will be more than happy to accept a donation in your time frame.

•  Use the Internet. Read what other people have said about the charity.

•  Research before you donate. Use our charity evaluation site, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, to find out how the organization plans to spend your donation.

Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by email at



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