How the Better Business Bureau Protects Consumers from Scams
From “free” vacations to getting luxury goods for suspiciously low prices, there are a variety of scams out there. Find out how to protect yourself.
A primary motivation for the founding of the Better Business Bureau was to protect consumers from deceptive advertising and false claims about products. It’s a mission the organization still takes very seriously. Be on the watch for the following scams:
High-tech for Pennies?
If you use email, you’ve almost certainly received messages encouraging you to bid for iPads, smart phones and other gadgetry for outrageously low prices. Yes, it is too good to be true. These so-called penny auctions generated more than 1,000 complaints to the BBB of Delaware during a seven-month period in 2011.
Typically with these auctions, every time you make a bid, you must pay a fee (up to $1), and if you aren’t the auction winner, you’ve lost all that money. In order to be eligible to bid, you must set up an account with a debit or credit card and purchase bids in bundles of 100 or more. Some services advertise that you can sign up for free, but users later find out they’ve been charged a fee, often around $99.
Resist the urge to get something for almost nothing and buy your high-tech gear from a reputable retailer.
Timeshare Scams Proliferate
Some cash-strapped timeshare owners are looking to unload a financial burden, but instead are being duped into paying thousands of dollars to unscrupulous timeshare resellers. The resellers convince owners to pay upfront fees, sometimes described as closing costs—money the timeshare owner loses when the promised sale never materializes.
The BBB has given F ratings to companies like Resorts Condo Management, Creative Vacation Solutions, Platinum Property Exchange and Premier Timeshare Solutions for scamming timeshare owners in this way.
The BBB advises sellers to be wary of upfront fees, to check out the resale company thoroughly, and never to agree to anything over the phone. The wisest course of action is to make sure the timeshare reseller is a BBB Accredited Business or at least one with a good rating from the BBB.
“Free” Vacations Take Consumers for a Ride
Be wary of offers for free cruises, vacation prizes and free hotel stays, which in reality are often sales presentations in which scammers use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy on the spot.
Other alluring vacation offers could actually end up costing you much more than you anticipate. Many such offers, for example, include lodging only or include transportation for only one person, while the second person is required to purchase the trip at full fare.
The BBB recommends that you ask a lot of questions before committing to any vacation deal, that you check out the business before purchasing anything, that you get proper confirmation of your booking, and that you pay with a credit card to protect yourself against a dishonest sale. Again, the best way to protect yourself is to deal with BBB Accredited Businesses.