Category Archives: Better Business Bureau

Don’t Get Cheated by Back-to-School Gimmicks

BBB Issues Tips for Safe Online Shopping and Apartment Hunting

Anchorage, Alaska. — August 14, 2014 — As Alaskans prepare to fork out more cash this school year, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington offers advice for both parents and students before they hit store shelves and online stores.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school shopping will top $26 billion this year. Online shopping is on the rise with more than half of students using their smartphones to make purchases.  This could open the door for scammers to target shoppers.

Meanwhile, thousands of college students are apartment hunting.  If they’re not careful, they could fall into bad lease terms.

BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has received 171 complaints against apartment complexes this year alone.

To be a savvy shopper and wise renter, BBB advises consumers to:

1. Be wary of ads or links offering gift cards for filling out surveys or entering contests. These links could lead to malicious sites that could download malware to a smartphone or computer.  Remember: ads that look too good to be true, often are.
2. Be on the lookout for text message scammers.  Scammers are known to send text messages claiming to be brand name stores asking consumers to claim freebies by texting their personal information.  These are likely phishing scams that could lead to identity theft.
3. Understand tenant’s rights and responsibilities.  An apartment lease should always include specifics on how all maintenance and repair concerns are handled.  It should also clearly state what the rent amount covers, such as utilities or cable TV.
4. Know the red flags of a rental scam.  Be careful of landlords who are located elsewhere or require a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the property.  Steer clear of landlords who ask renters to wire money through services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
5. Take precautions before moving in.  Document the apartment’s condition by taking pictures of the unit prior to move-in.  This will protect renters from being held responsible for damages they didn’t do.

For more trustworthy consumer tips and BBB accredited property management companies, visit BBB.org.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Social Media Sites Could Lead to ID Theft

Better Business Bureau Warns That Some Websites Can Compromise Personal Information

Anchorage, Alaska – August 12, 2014 – Whether it’s giving online birthday wishes, connecting with former classmates or gaming with friends, social media has become a powerful networking tool for businesses, consumers and, now more than ever, crooks.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns of new tricks aimed at stealing the personal information of not only online users but their contacts, too.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, consumers lost more than $780 million last year because of internet crime; nearly 50% more than in 2012. With recent data breaches and more online sharing, BBB advises social networkers to click cautiously.

·         Post with care. Avoid sharing private information publicly. Steer clear of posting birthdates, family names and relatives’ information online.

·         Check privacy policies. Read and understand how websites use information they collect and be sure it’s never sold to an outside party.

·         Keep guard. Games, quizzes and surveys are fun, but if they require entering personal information, don’t respond and stop playing.

·         Click with caution. Avoid following links that are unsolicited, even if they appear on a social media page. One wrong click could lead to unwanted sites or add malware to a computer.

·         Block the fakes. Beware of fake social media profiles that appear to be using the names of friends. Be cautious about “friending” people.

·         Strengthen passwords. Change passwords frequently, at least once every six months. Use long phrases, numbers and a symbol to help prevent hackers gaining access to accounts.

Visit StopThinkConnect for more information on how to stay safe online, and connect with BBB and its Social Hub for the latest news and consumer alerts.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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NY Times: Russian Hackers Amass More than 1 Billion Internet Passwords

BBB Warns Consumers to Be Proactive in Securing Personal Data

Anchorage, Alaska – Aug. 6, 2014 –The New York Times reported this morning that a Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses.

While details are still limited, including which companies have fallen victim or how the hackers conducted the breach, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington urges consumers to protect their online accounts. The Times reports the hackers appear to be using stolen information to send spam on social networking sites like Twitter, and could be selling personal data on the black market.

BBB understands there is not much consumers can do to prevent data breaches from happening, but vigilance will help minimize the risk of falling victim to identity theft.

- Change passwords. Never use the same password for every online account or website.
- Monitor credit and bank statements. Go online to verify account information and do not wait for paper statements.
- Set up alerts. Set up automatic activity alerts on banking and credit card accounts and with the three credit reporting agencies.
- Report suspicious activity. Immediately report unauthorized charges and place a credit freeze on any compromised accounts.
- Save receipts. Keep all receipts handy in case charges need to be substantiated

Also visit OnGuardOnline.gov, a website run by the Federal Trade Commission, for more tips on avoiding scams and protecting your computer.

Scammers will likely take advantage of this high-profile public data breach to phish for personal information. Over the next few weeks, be extremely wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls from purported financial institutions. Do not click on links, download attachments or provide sensitive information—like Social Security numbers—to unknown parties.

Business owners:  Make sure that your customers’ information is being protected. Check out BBB’s free Data Security – Made Simpler guide for businesses at bbb.org/data-security.

All Americans are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus; the only official source for these reports is at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Visit akorww.bbb.org for the latest consumer alerts and stay connected with the latest information from BBB on its Social Hub.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Alaska RV Company Sputters, Leaves Consumers Angry

Anchorage, Alaska — July 30, 2014 — Anchorage-based B&B RV Rental LLC has earned itself an “F” rating with Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington after it failed to respond to more than 20 complaints within the last three years.

B&B RV Rental LLC leases and rents recreational vehicles, campers and motor homes to vacationers in Alaska. Customers allege the business fails to honor rental agreements, falsely advertises damaged and unsafe RVs as new models and does not deliver on its promises to refund money.

“This company has cost us thousands of dollars in rental fees,” one customer wrote to BBB. “We had to call and scramble to find replacement motorhomes which cost us an additional $8000.00.”

Another customer wrote, “With no refund from this company our trip of a lifetime has been turned into a nightmare of a lifetime.”

B&B RV Rental LLC also does business under the names AKMotorhome.com and AK Motor Home.

BBB recognized a pattern of complaints in June 2014, but the company refused to address the problems. BBB is concerned about the nature of these complaints and reminds consumers to thoroughly research companies at bbb.org before making purchases or paying for services.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Avoid the Blitz by Blocking Fake Ticket Offers

BBB Warns of Scams as Hawk Tickets Go on Sale

Anchorage, Alaska. — July 21, 2014 — As single-game tickets for the Seahawks go on sale Monday, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns fans to be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals.

Online classified ads list thousands of sports tickets, but BBB reminds shoppers that oftentimes there are no guarantees, and sellers don’t have to provide identification to list tickets. With high prices and diehard fans, it is certain that fraudsters will try to hustle fake tickets.

Before plucking down cash or giving credit card numbers, review BBB’s advice to Hawk fans:

- Play smart. Use credit when buying game tickets; if the tickets don’t arrive or turn out to be fakes, charges can be disputed.
- Pass up offers to wire money. Con artists often use classified websites such as Craigslist to post non-existent tickets, and then ask for payment to be wired.
- Call an audible. If the tickets appear suspicious, walk away. Look for smeared ink, uneven edges and flimsy paper. Always research ticket sellers first at bbb.org.
- Take a timeout. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always take time to choose authorized ticket and merchandise retailers; check with the official Seahawks site for more information.

BBB wants to help fans kick off the NFL season right. For more advice on avoiding common scams, visit  BBB’s News & Events page and BBB’s Social Hub.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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DNW Awarded the BBB Certificate for Excellence

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager for Better Business Bureau Serving Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington, is proud to announce that Delta News Web has been awarded the BBB Certificate for Excellence in Consumer Protection and Advocacy for outstanding news coverage on consumer protection, military and business outreach.

Michelle Tabler
Alaska Regional Manager

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Free Wi-Fi Connections Lead to Sidejacking

BBB Warns of Growing Online Attacks Targeting Wi-Fi Users

Anchorage, Alaska. – June 25, 2014 – Sidejacking is a common term for man-in-the-middle “eavesdropping” attacks that occur through unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Coffee shops, college campuses, airports and hotels are breeding grounds for hackers who try to compromise personal information and place computers at risk for viruses.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns users to be cautious when connecting to public hotspots and surfing on a non-secure internet connection.

Using public Wi-Fi is inherently risky; laptops, smartphones and tablets are all susceptible to security breaches. Exercising best practices takes only a few extra seconds and can eliminate many dangers.

BBB recommends the following steps to protect from hackers:

· Update protection. Make sure virus protection and anti-malware programs are up-to-date and active.

· Never assume connections are legitimate. Many fake networks deliberately utilize similar names, such as “coffee_shop” or “official airport wifi.”

· Look for connection authenticity. Look for signs posted at the location providing the connection, or ask an employee for information about the legitimate Wi-Fi access point.

· Use a Virtual Private Network. VPNs encrypt data that passes through the connection and prevent interception.

· Avoid specific websites. Social networking channels, online banking services and certain shopping sites contain significant amounts of personal/financial data that, if hijacked, could seriously compromise identities.

BBB reminds online users to frequently change passwords and to not stay permanently logged in to wireless networks. For more information about online safety, check out OnGuardOnline.gov; visit the BBB News & Events page for the latest scam alerts and marketplace updates.

BBBnews and events link: http://www.bbb.org/alaskaoregonwesternwashington/news-events/

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Seniors Still Swindled by Scammers

BBB updates seniors about current scams for World Elder Abuse Day 2014

Anchorage, Alaska – June 13, 2014 –The stories are heartbreaking. Grandmothers and grandfathers who are abused, neglected and financially exploited. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, hundreds of thousands of seniors are victimized every year.

June 15, 2014 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington wants Oregonians to know the warning signs of abuse.

Seniors are often vulnerable to fraud and financial crimes. They are easy to reach at home, are too polite to hang up on calls from strangers, and are more likely to have financial means. BBB wants seniors and their families to be aware of the following scams:

  • Grandparent Scams— Scammers call and claim to be grandchildren who need help. Common ploys might be, “I’m stranded on spring break” or “I’ve been arrested” or “hospitalized” and need money for medical purposes, to get out of jail or back home. The cons generally ask their victims to wire money. They claim their voice sounds different because of an accident or crisis, and ask that the grandparents not tell their parents.
  • Charity Scams— Con artists will ask for donations or money for raffles to benefit charities. BBB recommends only making donations to reputable charities. Seniors can go to give.org to read reports on local and national charities and find ways to give wisely.
  • Healthcare Scams— Scammers will call or email, claiming to be with Medicare or insurance companies. They’ll ask to confirm personal information, in order to send a new card or announce a new plan. Additionally, they might tell victims, they need to send money for the new plan or card.
  • Sweepstakes/Lottery Scams— Victims receive letters in the mail stating they have won the lottery or sweepstakes. The letters will instruct the person to deposit an enclosed check and then wire a portion of the money back to the company to cover taxes or administration fees. The checks are usually bogus and victims end up losing the money. Remember, never send money to receive any winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.

Family and friends need to do their part and watch for the following signs of financial exploitation:

  • Missing belongings and property
  • Unusual bank activity
  • Unnecessary purchases
  • Sudden changes to power of attorney or wills
  • Sudden interest in investments or business opportunities
  • Several unpaid bills or bounced checks.

To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation occurring in the home or in long-term care facilities in Alaska, call 1-877-857-3500 (907-334-5989 in Anchorage) or contact local law enforcement agencies

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

 

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Avoid Having to “Re-Do” Remodels and Home Repairs

Better Business Bureau Helps Consumers Find Reputable Workers

Anchorage, Alaska — June 3, 2014 — According to the National Association of Home Builders, 60 percent of home owners hired professional contractors to perform work in 2011. And with consumers each spending an average of $4,000 per year on home repairs, this large industry attracts a lot of companies—good and bad. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington advises remodelers about choosing the right tools for pricey jobs to avoid costly re-do’s of shoddy work.

·         Research credentials. Check for permanent places of business, telephone numbers, tax ID numbers and business licenses. Make sure businesses are financially stable and ask for proof.

·         Verify insurance coverage. Ask to see copies of liability coverage and workers’ compensation certificates. If contractors aren’t properly insured, home owners may be liable for accidents that happen on their properties; ensure that coverage runs through job completions.

·         Examine licensing and bonding. Licenses protect consumers and payment bonds will ensure liens cannot be placed on homes if subcontractors do not get paid.

·         Ask about reputations. Ask contractors for lists of completed projects and double-check with previous customers. Verified customer reviews on local businesses are available at bbb.org.

·         Read the fine print. Carefully read and understand contracts; look over warranties and any provisions that may void them. Once contracts have been signed, make sure all changes are in writing—never rely on verbal agreements.

·         Avoid large upfront payments. Initial payments should not exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of total contracts and only pay for work that has been satisfactorily completed.

Consumers should avoid contractors who use high-pressure sales tactics, refuse to give written estimates or contracts, fail to get proper permits or require full or substantial payments before the work begins. Remember, the lowest price is not necessarily the best.

Finding the right company for the right job takes a little work, but will be worth it in the end. Visit the BBB Accredited Business online directory to find local reputable contractors.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Scammers Take Aim This Memorial Day

BBB Warns Service Men and Women to be on Guard of Shysters

Anchorage, AK. – May 22, 2014 – As Alaskans take time to honor service men and women this Memorial Day, Better Business Bureau warns of scammers who have their sights set on ripping off military personnel and their families.

“It doesn’t get much lower than this,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska Oregon and Western Washington. “Too many times we hear stories of people coming back from deployment only to be sucked into elaborate and costly scams.”

BBB is alerting the military community and the public to malicious tactics that scammers use to steal money and identities.

Phone Scams: Impostors pose as Veterans Administration employees and call to “verify” personal information, sometimes using scare tactics like VA benefits cancellations to collecting birthdates, Social Security numbers and bank account information.

Rental Listings: Cyber thieves create bogus online rental listings and lure in potential victims by offering military discounts, requiring that deposits and rent be wired to landlords who are out of the country.

Military Loans: Sketchy lenders promise “instant approvals” and no credit checks, but loans often carry extremely high interest rates and hidden fees.

Insurance Policies: Solicitors make false statements or inflate claims regarding the benefits of policies they offer, using high-pressured sales pitches to sell expensive—and often unnecessary—life insurance policies.

BBB advises consumers to take the following precautions on Memorial Day:

  • Do the recon. Learn about businesses and charities by visiting bbb.org before making payments or donations.
  • Arm computers. Never click on unknown links in unsolicited emails, which may install malware and attempt to steal identities.
  • Take watch. Deployed service members can issue “active duty” credit alerts to minimize the risk of identity theft. Creditors are then required to verify identification before making adjustments to accounts.

Through BBB Foundation, the BBB Military Line provides free resources to all branches of the U.S. military, including financial literacy information, scam alerts and access to BBB services like complaint handling and dispute resolution.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Don’t Let Scammers Get the Upper Hand This Mother’s Day

BBB Warns Consumers to be Extra Cautious When Treating Moms 

Anchorage, AK – May 8, 2014 – Whether it’s a beautiful bouquet or a box of chocolates, sons and daughters are expected to pay big this Mother’s Day. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers plan to spend more than $160 each on gifts for mothers and wives leading up to the 2014 occasion. But Better Business Bureau warns that if consumers aren’t careful, those purchases could leave moms with wilted feelings.

“Consumers need to take extra precautions before placing orders, especially online,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Whether it’s flowers, e-cards or vouchers received in the mail, it’s important to always read the fine print and check with BBB.”

  • Research first. Check out BBB Business Reviews to see complaint histories and read customer reviews. When buying online, carefully analyze the terms and conditions to understand post-purchase options.
  • Validate contact information. Confirm phone numbers and addresses before making purchases to ensure that potential problems can be managed.
  • Ask about guarantees. Request written receipts for orders and ask about refund policies in case deliveries are late, arrive damaged or never arrive at all.
  • Verify security. When shopping online use reputable secure websites and never enter personal information in pop-up screens. Pay with credit cards when possible, which offer additional securities.
  • Confirm shipping and delivery deadlines. Check with the florists, retailers and websites to be certain that gifts arrive on time. Clearly specify delivery dates and ask for guarantees. Remember, last-minute or overnight shipping will be costly; consider scheduling deliveries for a day or two before major holidays.

Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to get out and shop local; support the community by shopping at neighborhood florists and other business. In-person visits will eliminate confusion and guarantee the quality of the products. To find local accredited businesses this Mother’s Day visit bbb.org.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Don’t Get “Tripped Up” During Travel Season

Better Business Bureau Helps Consumers Avoid Destination Detractors

Anchorage, Alaska — May 6, 2014 — Sunshine, warm sand and exotic meals are tempting after long dark winters and many people are emerging from hibernation to prepare for summer travel. But before booking dream vacations, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns Alaskans to be wary of travel troubles.

Once destinations have been selected, BBB reminds travelers to follow checklists before making payments or signing contracts.

  • Get offers in writing. Visit bbb.org to check the reliability of companies offering travel bargains, especially businesses offering timeshares or inclusive packages. Ask for cancellation and refund policies.
  • Read the fine print. Once offers are in writing, pay special attention to asterisks and footnotes, which usually indicate restrictions and additional fees.
  • Research travel insurance options. Not all trips are created equal. If a trip only costs a few hundred dollars, it’s probably not worth the cost of insurance; if it’s the trip of a lifetime which costs thousands of dollars, it’s a good consideration.
  • Confirm details independently. Check reservations and availability; ask for brochures directly from hotels and find out which features are included. Compare rates with other travel agencies.
  • Protect identities. Make travel arrangements with trusted companies. Never provide credit card information to unsolicited callers.
  • Get passports early. According to the U.S. State Department, it can take up to six weeks to process passport applications. Remember, all American citizens are required to show passports when leaving and re-entering the United States—including Canada and Mexico.

After returning from a trip, BBB recommends proactive follow-up:

  • Save receipts and evaluate bills.
  • Check accounts for unauthorized purchases.
  • Monitor credit reports by requesting free annual copies from annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.

BBB wants consumers to enjoy their travels in 2014. Take a trip to BBB News & Events for more travel tips, scam alerts and consumer news.

Michelle Tabler, Oregon Public Relations Manager:  pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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BBB Warns of Attacks on Income

Reports Outline Large Tax-Related Scams

Anchorage, Alaska – April 14, 2014 – As the filing deadline quickly approaches, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is warning tax-paying consumers to file cautiously.

On the Phone:

On March 20, 2014, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration issued a statement that more than 20,000 people have collectively lost more than $1 million in the “largest ever” phone fraud scam of its kind. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office issued a similar alert.

On the Internet:

The Internal Revenue Service is highlighting sophisticated new phishing campaigns that threaten legal action because of “processing errors” and request personal information.

E-filing continues to be a primary target for cyber thieves, who can collect personal data and divert refunds to their own accounts without the victims’ knowledge.

Identity Theft:

Tax-related identity theft is the number one threat to taxpayers, according to the IRS. BBB issued a release in January 2014 which highlights the increase in threats and what filers can do to protect identities. Read Tax Season Brings Out Identity Thieves for more information.

Remember, the filing deadline is April 15, 2014. Failure to file may result in fees and penalties. For more information on protecting identities, visit BBB News & Events. To report phishing or tax-related identity theft, visit irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Don’t Be A Financial Fool This April

BBB Helps Consumers during Financial Literacy Month

 April 1, 2014 — Anchorage, Alaska — In March 2004, the United States Senate officially recognized April as Financial Literacy Month, in an effort to highlight the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy financial habits and outline the serious consequences that may be associated with a lack of understanding.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington wants consumers to be financially “in the know.”  During the month of April, follow BBB on Facebook for daily financial tips about earning, saving, protecting assets, spending and borrowing.

Additional resources are available from the Financial Literacy and Education Commission and Better Business Bureau.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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BBB Honored as a Top Workplace

Better Business Bureau Named 2014 “Top Place to Work” by Business Examiner

Anchorage, Alaska — March 27, 2014 — Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has been named a Top Place to Work in the “non-profit” category by Business Examiner for 2014.

The award recognizes outstanding company cultures that embody five core categories: employee appreciation, equity, gratification, integrity and solidarity.

“We are humbled and grateful to be this year’s recipient,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Our employees are the lifeblood of this organization; their passion and vision is evident in what we do every day.”

Winners of the “Top Places to Work” awards were determined by an independent panel of judges consisting of HR and business professionals from the local community. The awards were announced Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Tacoma, Wash., in front of more than 250 attendees. BBB was one of 26 finalists in the South Sound.

BBB would like to congratulate the other recipients and nominees; any organization that creates an outstanding company culture is a top place to work.

To see BBB’s entry for Top Places to Work click here for the full video.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Coin Company Accused of Cashing in Without Delivering

Anchorage, Alaska — March 13, 2014 — More than two dozen people have contacted Better Business Bureau to complain about Blue Moon Coins out of Vancouver, Wash., after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. The company, which sells wholesale precious metals and coins, has earned an “F” rating with Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington after failing to respond to six complaints.

Customers allege that after placing orders, the products do not arrive; the company has racked up 25 complaints nationwide within the last three years including 19 serious ones. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office says it has 16 complaints against the business from 2013 to 2014

One customer says he lost $168,000 after placing an order with Blue Moon Coins in September 2013. After months of attempted contact, the man tells BBB that he still has not been able to reach the company or receive a refund.

A Washington State customer tells BBB that he purchased $6,000 in merchandise from Blue Moon Coins in early January 2014, but when trying to cancel the order, he claims the company never responded. He now wants to warn other potential customers before they do business. “I want the public to know, so someone else doesn’t get caught in this trap,” he says. 

The BBB accreditation of Blue Moon Coins was revoked in December 2013 after the business failed to comply with the BBB Code of Business Practices.

BBB is concerned about the serious nature of these complaints and reminds consumers to properly research companies at bbb.org before making purchases.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Prepaid Debit Cards are Easy Money for Scammers

Anchorage, Alaska – March 3, 2014 – According to Better Business Bureau reports, consumers across Alaska are being scammed out of hundreds of dollars with prepaid money cards. These cards offer many conveniences, but create easy opportunities for scammers; consumers should be aware of the dangers associated with prepaid cards.

In February 2014, BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington received information from a woman who claims to have been ripped off by an elaborate Green Dot MoneyPak scheme. The woman reports that a person called her home stating that her son was eligible for a $7,500 education scholarship. The caller directed the woman to load a Green Dot MoneyPak card with $200—to pay the “processing fees”—and call back. After giving the caller the prepaid card number, she was instructed to wait for further instructions. However, the caller never followed up about the scholarship and the funds were drained from the card.

Green Dot MoneyPak cards can be advantageous when utilized for the right purposes, but crooks prefer these cards because of the anonymity and how easy it is to make transfers: Once they have the 14-digit card number, they’re as good as gone.

BBB offers advice on avoiding prepaid card scams:
·     Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment—for any reason.
·     Never give out personal or financial information to unsolicited callers or emailers.
·     Never wire money or provide debit, credit or prepaid card numbers to persons unknown.

Remember, anyone with the number from the back of a prepaid debit card has access to the funds on that card. Green Dot reminds people that it is not responsible for lost funds and offers additional resources at moneypak.com/ProtectYourMoney.

 Note: Utility companies and government agencies will never demand immediate payment by prepaid debit.

For more information or to report a scam, visit BBB’s Scam Source.

Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is one of 113 in North America and the largest BBB by geographical service area. BBB is a neutral not-for-profit public reporting agency committed to trust in the marketplace. For more information on ethical business standards and BBB Accreditation, or to access free BBB Business Reviews, Charity Reviews, scam alerts or find local event information, contact BBB or visit bbb.org.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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BBB’s High School Scholarship Deadline Approaches

Anchorage, Alaska – Feb. 12, 2014 – In 2014, Better Business Bureau will make it easier for six students to attend college. Through BBB Foundation, one $1,000 scholarship and one $1,500 scholarship will be awarded in each of the states the organization serves: Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington.

The Students of Integrity Scholarship is designed to support students who recognize the importance of ethical and responsible marketplace practices. To download the application and determine eligibility requirements, please visit akorww.bbb.org/scholarship.

Deadline: Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2014. Incomplete applications or those postmarked after this date will not be considered.

Celebrate: Winners will be announced in April 2014. Winners’ names and schools may be released to the public and/or news media for promotional purposes. Non-winners will be notified via email by BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington after the winners have been contacted.

For more information on the 2014 Students of Integrity Scholarships, please email bbbfoundation@thebbb.org.

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Tax Season Brings Out Identity Thieves

Anchorage, Alaska — Jan. 14, 2014 — Thousands of Alaskans are eligible to receive refunds from Uncle Sam in 2014, and it’s not just Certified Public Accountants that will be busy; tax season is primetime for identity thieves. With all of the personal information contained in tax documents, cons will try every trick in the book to obtain these documents in order to get Social Security numbers and intercept refunds.

To help consumers understand the risks of tax-related identity theft, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is teaming up with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service for Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 13 – 17, 2014.

According to the IRS, nearly 1,500 tax identity theft related criminal investigations were launched in 2013—an increase of 66 percent from 2012. To protect Americans, the IRS, FTC and BBB have expanded efforts to educate taxpayers and help victims.

Avoid becoming a victim of tax identity theft:

  • File tax returns early.
  • Don’t leave W-2s in unsecure locations like offices or cars; shred copies of leftover tax information, drafts, or calculation sheets that are no longer needed.
  • Use secure Internet connections when filing electronically, or mail tax returns directly from the post office.
  • Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
  • Never disclose Social Security numbers—SSNs—or other sensitive personal information over the phone to unsolicited callers.
  • Thoroughly research tax preparers at bbb.org to find ones that are local and accredited.

If personal information is compromised, take immediate proactive steps to recover:

Remember, the Internal Revenue Service will never initiate contact by email, text or social media; if information is needed, the organization will make contact and clearly verify the identities of contactors.

For more information on identity theft and additional tips on how to combat scams, check out the BBB News Center and the FTC’s Identity Theft Guide.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Don’t Get Tackled by Counterfeit Sellers

BBB Warns of Phony Merchandise Leading Up To the NFL Playoffs

Anchorage, Alaska — Jan. 8, 2014 — As the 12th Man prepares for the Seattle Seahawks’ first playoff game, cons are preparing to line their pockets with the sales of knockoff NFL memorabilia as well. Better Business Bureau reminds fans that counterfeit gear may be inexpensive, but the value and quality is often poor and purchases divert funds away from legitimate organizations.

“This is going to be one of the most highly-anticipated games in Seattle this year,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “But with every major sporting event there’s going to be scammers ready to capitalize on fans’ desires to snap up team jerseys and souvenirs.”

According to the Counterfeiting Intelligence Bureau, counterfeiting is one of the fastest growing economic crimes and accounts for nearly six percent of global trade, worth an estimated $600 billion a year. With large fan bases and recognizable logos, American football franchises are prime targets; in fact, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Operation Red Zone seized $17.3 million in fake NFL merchandise in the months leading up to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Before kickoff, BBB encourages fans to stay on the defense:

  • Look for ripped tags or irregular markings on apparel.
  • Beware of large price discrepancies; if prices seem too good to be true, products are most likely fake. However, understand that many unscrupulous sellers will try to legitimize their merchandise with higher price points.
  • Avoid pop-up street vendors, flea markets, online auctions and other questionable sources.
  • Exercise caution when shopping online.
  • Buy merchandise from official team stores and authorized retailers when possible.

Keep in mind, team names and logos are copyrights of the National Football League. NFL Properties LLC issues merchandise licenses to persons or businesses wishing to make and sell products with NFL copyrights. To find out more, call the NFL Licensing Hotline at 212-450-2780 and always check out businesses at bbb.org.

 

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

 

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Intercept Fakes Before It’s Too Late

BBB Warns of Bogus Seahawks Tickets

Anchorage, Alaska – Jan 6, 2014 – The road to Super Bowl XLVII will wind through Seattle in 2014, and fall right into Better Business Bureau’s backyard. Ticket resellers are already busy swinging deals—like $14,000 tickets—with anyone willing to buy seats for the big game. But before making massive purchases, BBB warns fans to guard against blitzing scammers.

“CenturyLink will be sold out, so anyone wanting tickets can expect to pay a fortune,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Be extremely careful when purchasing tickets from third-party sellers and remember that great last-minute deals could turn out too-good-to-be-true.”

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, ticket seekers will be “rushing” online classifieds in hopes of finding private dealers willing to sell off valuable tickets. However, BBB reminds consumers to stick with their playbooks:

Spot the fakes. Learn how real tickets look and feel; watch for flimsy paper, smeared ink and uneven margins. When in doubt, walk away.

Go with star players. Use reliable and verifiable ticket sellers and resellers that hold vendors responsible for ticket authenticity.

Avoid the sack. Never wire funds to make purchases. Use credit cards online and dispute the charges if tickets don’t arrive or turn out to be fakes.

Call a timeout. Avoid sellers that fail to provide contact information or prefer to conduct transactions privately. When buying tickets from local sellers, meet them in well-lit public places and bring a friend.

Check bbb.org and don’t be left cheering alone this postseason.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Prepaid Presents Present Problems

Anchorage, Alaska – Dec. 22, 2013 – Gift cards are practical for the people who “have everything,” allowing them to make their own purchases and avoid trips to stores to return ugly sweaters. The convenience of a universal gift is appealing and Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to develop safe gift card giving habits.

Shoppers will spend nearly $118 billion on gift cards in 2013 and six in ten Americans indicate that they would like to receive these items as holiday gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. As gift card giving increases, so does the prevalence of gift card scams:

  • Digital Gift Card Theft: Cybercriminals pose as retailers to phish for virtual gift card information and clean out balances.
  • Physical Gift Card Theft: Thieves visit stores, collect gift card information and continue to check card numbers until they are purchased and activated, immediately using all of the funds.
  • Fake Secondhand Gift Cards: Scammers post gift cards to online auctions or classified sites and offer discounted prices on counterfeit or already-used cards.

When shopping for gift cards, BBB offers practical advice:

  • Avoid buying gift cards online. Only purchase cards directly from the issuing stores, no matter how much cheaper they may be elsewhere.
  • Examine cards carefully. Thoroughly inspect cards and do not buy them if they look like they may have been altered.
  • Bypass public display racks. Don’t buy gift cards off publicly-displayed racks in retail stores; but, do not assume that because gift cards are inaccessible to the public, they are safe.
  • Ask cashiers to scan and verify cards. Have gift cards scanned and activated at checkout and have cashiers verify balances before leaving stores.
  • Keep receipts. Many retailers can track where cards are purchased, activated and used and may be able to replace stolen cards with the proper proof of purchase.

It is estimated that more than $1 billion in gift cards go unredeemed annually. Remember, legislation passed in 2010 states that money on prepaid cards cannot expire for at least five years—even if expiration periods are shorter; make sure to read the fine print on all cards before making purchases. Learn more about consumer gift card rights from the Federal Trade Commission and BBB.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Data Breach of National Retail Store Exposes 40 Million Accounts

Anchorage,  Alaska – Dec.  19, 2013 – On Dec. 19, 2013, Target Corporation announced that it experienced a massive data breach, exposing approximately 40 million customer accounts. Better Business Bureau advises consumers to not panic and take proactive steps in protecting personal information.

The national retail chain—which operates more than 1,600 stores in 48 states—confirmed that the unauthorized access may impact guests who made credit or debit card purchases in U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. Read the official statement here.

Shoppers that may be affected should understand that they are not liable for fraudulent charges.

  • Continue to monitor credit and bank statements; go online to verify account information and do not wait for paper statements. Target is in the process of notifying banks and credit providers.
  • Immediately report unauthorized charges and place a credit freeze on any compromised accounts.
  • Keep all receipts handy in case charges need to be substantiated.

Scammers will likely take advantage of this high-profile public data breach to phish for personal information. Over the next few weeks, be extremely wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls from purported financial institutions. Do not click on links, download attachments or provide information—like Social Security numbers—to contactors.

Business Owners:  Make sure that customer information is being protected. Check out BBB’s Data Security – Made Simpler free guide for businesses at bbb.org/data-security.

All Americans are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus; the only official source for these reports is at annualcreditreport.com. Visit akorww.bbb.org for the latest consumer alerts.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Sweeten the Pot by Giving Wisely

BBB Offers Holiday Donating Advice

Anchorage, Alaska – Dec 16, 2013 –Thousands of generous Alaskans will open hearts and wallets this holiday season, opening themselves up to scammers in the process.  Cons are employing all sorts of tactics to weasel money away from unsuspecting consumers and Better Business Bureau reminds donors to give wisely.

“This is the time of year when people feel compelled with holiday spirit to reach out and help those less fortunate,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “But donations can easily end up in the wrong hands if donors aren’t careful.”

  • Find a fit. Locate charities that meet specific needs and research how donations will be used; don’t settle for just any charity.
  • Know the organizations. Check out charities at bbb.org/charity before cutting checks; beware of fly-by-night operations with names that are similar to legitimate charities.
  • Donate directly. Confirm the legitimacy of charities by calling and donating using verified channels; avoid clicking on email links or giving in to phone solicitors.
  • Maintain paper trails. Avoid wiring money out of the country; make donations payable to organizations—never individuals—and always request receipts.
  • Secure identities. Never share banking or credit card information with unknown or unexpected solicitors.

The Mobile Giving Foundation gives wireless users safe opportunities to find trustworthy charities where they can make contributions using cellular phones.

Many charities count on end-of-year giving to sustain core programs, making an effort to reduce charity fraud increases donor confidence and directly impacts local communities. Visit the BBB Scam Stopper and give.org for more holiday tips.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Don’t Toy With Safety

Anchorage, Alaska – Dec. 12, 2013 – The holidays are quickly approaching and shoppers will be rushing to purchase and ship last minute gifts. At the top of many lists are the latest toys and electronics for kids. According to the National Retail Federation, 44 percent of shoppers plan to buy toys and 33 percent plan to buy electronics to give as holiday gifts in 2013. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington urges consumers to purchase with care when considering gifts for children.

181,000 children under the age of 12 were taken to emergency rooms across the country in 2012 with toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many of these injuries could have been prevented with a few simple proactive steps:

1)    Check the most current list of recalled products at cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.

2)    Make sure that toys are age-appropriate.

3)    Read and adhere to packaging labels.

For the first time ever, a recent NRF survey found that tablets and game consoles are among the most-requested gifts by both girls and boys.

1)    Check the Electronic Software Rating Board’s rating of video games, software and apps at esrb.org/ratings before making purchases.

2)    Avoid extended warranties, which are expensive and rarely worth the cost.

3)    Adults should register devices for children and explain the dangers of giving out personal information to strangers.

With hundreds of millions of packages expected to be sent between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s important to remember the appropriate shipping deadlines for getting gifts under trees on time:

Issues with toys and electronics are not new, read the Toys and Tech: Shopping Advice article in BBB’s News Center for more information.

Happy holidays from BBB; may the desired gifts be in stock and on sale.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

 

 

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Avoid “Whining” and Dining This Holiday Season

BBB Offers Tips for Hiring Holiday Caterers

Anchorage, Alaska — Dec. 10, 2013 — Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the cooking, but there are a few things to keep in mind before hiring holiday party caterers. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington wants hosts to throw memorable gatherings without any hassles.

Decide what is needed. Some caterers provide full-service options—where decorations, table settings and lighting is provided—and others only provide food. Determine the desired services and budget accordingly.

Start with Trust. Begin the hiring process by browsing BBB Accredited catering services at bbb.org and using the Request a Quote feature to collect estimates.  Make sure to check BBB Business Reviews for complaint details.

Gather names. Arrange meetings with organizers during the planning stages to ensure good working relationships; also, find out who will be in charge during events in case there are problems.

Get everything in writing. Written contracts should include total prices of service, the costs per guest and lists of specific menu items—including beverages and any alternatives, if applicable. Contracts should clearly outline dates and times of delivery and set up or teardown fees.

Talk about conditions and agreements. Make sure that terms and conditions of deposits and refunds are understood and how they will change if original plans are altered. Agreements should itemize the number of staff involved, charges for overtime and the start and end time of events.

While caterers tend to receive fewer BBB complaints, it’s important to research food service providers to confirm they’re properly licensed and free from serious complaints.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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The Benefits and Dangers of Digital Receipts

Retailers Seek to Entice Customers with Convenient Payment Options

Anchorage, Alaska – Dec. 6, 2013 – With the probable demise of physical cash in the near future, many retailers—large and small—are adopting point-of-sale solutions to accommodate the increasing use of debit and credit. The ease of implementation, gentle learning curve and competitive fees are making smartphone and tablet-based POS options extremely popular. However, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is reminding shoppers to understand the benefits and dangers of mobile payments.

The Benefits

  • Only one card needs to be taken along on shopping sprees; carrying large amounts of cash for purchases is impractical and poses theft risks.
  • Charges made with debit or credit cards offer built-in protections like zero or limited liability.
  • Significant amounts of paper are saved with the use of digital receipts.
  • Small vendors can now accept small non-cash payments anywhere, without the costs previously associated with this convenience.

The Dangers

  • Since payments are typically processed on mobile devices which are not connected to printers, digital receipts are often emailed to customers; but, if email addresses are incorrect or spam filters are overly-aggressive, records of transactions may be lost, making it difficult to return or exchange merchandise.
  • Phishing emails with fake receipts can get mixed in with legitimate digital receipts and pose identity theft risks.
  • Once companies have email addresses and other personal information, they may be sold to third parties or used to blast “promotional” offers.

Always ask how personal information will be used and consider creating a second email address that will only be used for digital receipts. Also, it is always a good idea to make sure that digital receipts have arrived to inboxes before leaving stores; ask for handwritten copies if necessary.

Visit the BBB News Center for more smart shopping advice.

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BBB’s 12 Scams of Christmas

Anchorage, Alaska – Dec. 4, 2013 – Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns about common holiday scams and frauds:

1)      Malware E-cards: Viruses and malware often travel in fraudulent holiday email cards. Don’t click on links or download attachments in unsolicited emails.

2)      Stranded Grandkids: It’s the classic grandparent scam—verify identities before wiring money out of the country.

3)      Counterfeit Gifts: Low prices on luxury goods almost always mean cheap counterfeits; purchase products from legitimate retailers and avoid too-good-to-be-true prices.

4)      Pickpockets: Keep purses and wallets secure when shopping and avoid setting down bags while waiting in lines.

5)      Stolen Gift Cards: Only purchase gift cards from reputable dealers, not online or from individuals to avoid common gift card frauds.

6)      Fake Coupons: Be cautious when downloading digital coupons and be wary of sites that require personal information.

7)      Santa Scammers: What could be more jolly than a letter from Santa addressed directly to your child? Make sure sites are real and not gathering data for identity theft purposes.

8)      Fake Charities: Charities count on end-of-the-year giving, but be careful of scammers that set up fake charities with similar sounding names.

9)      Bogus Websites: It’s easy to mimic real websites. Navigate to legitimate retailers through verified channels.

10)   Travel Scams: With busy holiday travel, bargains may be tempting. Be cautious when booking through online ads and never wire money to persons unknown.

11)   Romance Scams: Everyone wants a special someone under the mistletoe, so holidays are a prime time for scams. Be careful with online sweethearts who get cozy too fast or ask for money.

12)   Puppy Scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially at the holidays.

It’s not just Santa that’s watching this time of year, scammers and thieves are too. Check with BBB for tips and advice on all kinds of holiday shopping.

Don’t be a Scrooge; visit BBB’s News Center year-round for updates on local scams.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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BBB Offers Holiday Shopping Advice

Anchorage, Alaska – Nov. 25, 2013 – Millions of shoppers will be heading out to cross items off of holiday wish lists this weekend, but Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington reminds consumers to shop wisely.

One in three American adults will make a purchase on the day after Thanksgiving; read BBB’s article, Find Holiday Deals, Not Holiday Duds on Black Friday, to make the experience as painless as possible on Nov. 29.

The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales; read BBB’s article, Small Business Saturday Means Big Business for Small Businesses, and shop local on Nov. 30.

Avoiding the holiday rush is nice, but shopping online comes with its own set of dangers; read BBB’s article, Click with Caution on Cyber Monday, for safe surfing tips on Dec. 2.

Happy holidays from BBB! Remember to visit BBB’s News Center for the most current consumer and small business news and advice.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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BBB Students of Integrity Scholarship for High School Seniors

Do you know a high school senior who personifies high ethics, as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic accomplishments?

One $1,500 scholarship and one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to students in each state-Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington to support students who recognize the importance of ethical and responsible marketplace practices.

Encourage high school seniors with a 3.5 GPA or higher to apply by visiting akorww.bbb.org/scholarship.

 

 

 

 

 

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Business of the Year Torch Awards

It’s That Time Again…for BBB’s Torch Awards

Does your business exemplify marketplace trust in its policies and procedures? Tell us about it on the 2014 Business of the Year Torch Award Application. Click here to download the Business of the Year application.

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It’s a Holly, Jolly Season for Phone Spammers

Anchorage, Alaska.Nov. 18, 2013 — According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry Data Book, more than 2.2 million complaints about recorded message calls were filed in fiscal year 2012. These days, robocalling spammers use cheap automated dialers to place thousands of calls to random numbers and spoof caller IDs to escape detection. With more people staying indoors near phones during the winter months, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington offers insight on robocalls.

  • Don’t talk or press buttons. Saying anything or pressing buttons will alert automated calling systems that they have reached working numbers, prompting future robocalls.
  • Never give out personal information. Avoid revealing personal or financial information—like bank details, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers—to unsolicited callers.
  • Verify callers. Legitimate human callers will be willing to provide verifiable contact information like company addresses and phone numbers.

With the holidays approaching, consumers should be aware of potentially fraudulent phone solicitors and charities. Add phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov and visit bbb.org for other marketplace tips.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Give Cautiously in Wake of Typhoon Haiyan Disaster

Alaska Attorney General Teams Up With BBB To Help Donors Avoid Scams

Anchorage, Alaska – Nov. 13, 2013 – In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, email scams which solicit the wiring of money to stranded victims in the Philippines are surfacing. Better Business Bureau and the Alaska Attorney General warn willing donors to give cautiously over the next few weeks.

“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones in this devastating storm,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “However, it’s important for donors to understand that not all pleas for help are legitimate.”

“I urge Alaskans who want to donate to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts to verify that they are dealing with legitimate, reputable organizations that will use their donations as intended,” says Attorney General Michael Geraghty.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors to take proactive steps to avoid being ripped-off by questionable solicitors or wasting money on poorly-managed relief efforts.

Don’t donate based on names. Avoid organizations that include the name of the storm or disaster—as they may have just been founded and have little experience or are simply trying to take advantage of highly-visible news coverage.

Be wary of digital appeals. Before responding to online or social media solicitations, independently check background and contact information; don’t assume that charities have been vetted just because they are recommended by websites, friends or family members.

Avoid donating the wrong goods or products.  Sending non-essential items could be a wasted effort and slow down the relief process; be sure to verify which items are needed and the specific distribution plans that are in place. Some organizations may only accept clothing and goods from locations close to the disaster zone to avoid freight costs.

Steer clear of inexperienced relief efforts. Inexperienced charities will likely hamper assistance and divert funds from other helpful organizations.

Research before donating. Before responding to emails or social media posts soliciting money, check out organizations at give.org to verify accountability standards.

Good intentions aren’t enough to carry out relief activities effectively; charities should be transparent, accountable and well-managed. Check the Alaska Department of Law’s Charity & Paid Solicitors page for fundraising laws or to verify that charities are registered to solicit donations in Alaska; also, check the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability.

Michelle Tabler, Alaska Regional Manager: 907-644-5208 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

Davyn Williams, Assistant Attorney General: 907-269-5200 | davyn.williams@alaska.gov

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2014 Torch Award Applications Now Being Accepted

BBB’s Business of the Year Torch Awards Honor Businesses that Embody Integrity

Anchorage, Alaska – Nov. 5, 2013 – Better Business Bureau proudly announces that it is now accepting entries and nominations for the 2014 Business of the Year Torch Awards. Each year, one business in Alaska is selected to receive this prestigious award because of its dedication to excellence in the marketplace.

Nominations will be accepted until Nov. 30, 2013; businesses that are nominated will be contacted and encouraged to submit entries. All entries must be submitted electronically or postmarked by Dec. 31, 2013. Winners will be announced no later than March 1, 2014.

Submit Entries Online, by Fax or by Mail To:

BBB Business of the Year Torch Awards
c/o Better Business Bureau
1000 Station Drive, Ste 222
DuPont, WA 98327
Fax: 907-562-4061

Download the online entry form here.

“The Torch Awards embody the ideals BBB works to advance in the marketplace,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “These are the businesses that make our communities such great places to live.”

Adam Harkness, Senior Editor & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Be on the Lookout for Illegal Decorative Lenses this Halloween

Anchorage, Alaska – Oct. 30, 2013 — Dressing up for Halloween might include wearing fashionable contact lenses, but Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns consumers that buying decorative contact lenses over-the-counter is illegal and can seriously damage eyesight.

Decorative contact lenses—also known as fashion contact lenses— are often times sold in beauty stores, Halloween shops, flea markets, convenience stores and on the Internet. However, decorative lenses are not for cosmetic use and should never be purchased over-the-counter. In fact, a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration consumer update clearly defines contact lenses as medical devices, making it against the law for vendors to advertise or sell decorative contact lenses without prescriptions.

Before spending cash on last minute costume accessories, BBB reminds consumers to check the following:

  • See eye doctors. Ophthalmologists and optometrists can measure eyes to properly fit lenses; poor-fitting lenses can cause serious eye damage, including scratches, infections and even blindness.
  • Look for valid prescriptions. Make sure that prescriptions include brand names, lens measurements and expiration dates.
  • Observe
    directions.
    Make sure to clean, disinfect and wear lenses correctly and responsibly.
  • Watch for problems. Seek doctors immediately if there are signs of possible infections, like redness, eye pain that doesn’t go away or decreases in vision.

Be sure to use bbb.org to find accredited businesses that legally sell eyewear, accessories and costumes.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Protect Critical Infrastructure During Cyber Security Month

Anchorage, Alaska Oct. 28, 2013 – As increasing cyber threats challenge the nation’s infrastructure, such as power plants, power lines and emergency response systems, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington encourages businesses and consumers to take precautions in resisting cyber intrusions.

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness month BBB has partnered with STOP.THINK.CONNECT. in an effort to help protect critical infrastructure.

According to a recent presidential Executive Order, repeat cyber threats continue to occur and represent a serious national security challenge. BBB believes that promoting safety and privacy is fundamental in protecting the quality of life that American consumers value.

What to do Moving Forward:

  • Keep clean computers. Unknown outside programs can open security vulnerabilities in home or business networks. Only install known and secure programs and keep computers clean by using reputable anti-virus software.
  • Follow good password practices. Make passwords long and strong, with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols; change passwords routinely and always keep them private.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Never open suspicious links in emails, tweets, social media posts, online ads, messages or attachments. Learn how to utilize spam filters and how to prevent unwanted, harmful emails.
  • Stay watchful and speak up. Stay vigilant and report unusual behaviors—on office computers or home computers.

Visit BBB’s Facebook page for more cyber security information.

STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ is a global cyber security awareness campaign that aims to build a workforce of cyber security professionals who are empowered to defend networks and combat cybercrime. BBB encourages Internet users to Get Involved and take action during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

 

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Be Proactive During National Cyber Security Month

Anchorage, Alaska Oct. 21, 2013 – Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has partnered with STOP.THINK.CONNECT. to promote the importance of cyber education. BBB believes that taking small proactive steps leads to stronger, more secure online identities.

During October, BBB is promoting National Cyber Security Awareness month.

Today’s world is more interconnected than ever. Yet, for all its advantages, increased connectivity brings increased risks of theft, fraud and abuse. BBB reminds people to protect themselves against cybercrime and get educated about the resources available to victims.

What to do this week: 

  • Don’t be a victim. Review the Victims of Cybercrime Tip Sheet and learn how to defend against cybercrime.
  • Change passwords. Keep passwords long, strong and unique strong; use complex combinations of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and change them often.
  • Post daily online safety tips. Share tips with friends on social media accounts.

Visit BBB’s Facebook page for more cyber security information.

STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ is a global cyber security awareness campaign that aims to build a workforce of cyber security professionals who are empowered to defend networks and combat cybercrime. BBB encourages Internet users to Get Involved and take action during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Education is Critical During National Cyber Security Month

STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ Campaign Aims to Empower Growing Workforce 

Anchorage, Alaska Oct. 14, 2013 – Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has partnered with STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ to promote the importance of cyber education. BBB believes that education is the foundation of internet safety, online security and ethical technology usage.

During October, BBB will be promoting National Cyber Security Awareness Month—NCSAM; the theme for the week of Oct. 14, 2013, is cyber education and workforce development. 

On Social Media:

  • Post NCSAM Buttons on Social Media Accounts: Let friends and family know October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

At Work and School:

  • Display Posters: Print posters to show in offices, schools, community centers or religious institutions.
  • Download the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Online Safety Quiz: Test family, friends and/or students on their cyber savvy.
  • Incorporate Cyber Security into Lesson Plans: Educate kids about online safety through C-SAVE, a Cyber Security Awareness Volunteer Education program.

At Home:

  • Create Tip Sheets: Display STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ worksheets near home computers and email tips to family and friends.
  • Have an Online Huddle: Hold family conferences and discuss strategies for fighting off cyber attacks and keeping home computers secure.

STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ is a global cyber security awareness campaign that aims to build a workforce of cyber security professionals who are empowered to defend networks and combat cybercrime. BBB advises Internet users to Get Involved and take action during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Visit BBB’s Facebook page for more cyber security information.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

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Chimney Sweep Won’t Issue Refunds, Leaves Customers Hearth-Broken

Anchorage, Alaska – Oct. 9, 2013 – A Palmer-based chimney service company is accused of accepting down payments, not performing any work and ignoring requests for refunds. Alaska Chimney Sweep has earned an “F” rating with Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington for a pattern of unanswered complaints.

Complainants allege that once deposits are paid, the business becomes unresponsive; one complainant said that she did not hear from the company for five months after placing her deposit and it took two weeks of phone-tag before she finally turned to BBB. So far in 2013, BBB has received five complaints, all of which have gone unanswered.

When hiring a chimney service company, don’t get swept by the wrong sweep:

  • Scour alaska.bbb.org to find trustworthy BBB Accredited Businesses.
  • Brush up on company histories to find out how long they have been in operation and check that business licenses and insurance are current.
  • Scrub out shady companies by asking for, and verifying, previous customer references.
  • Dis-mantel requests for “emergency” repairs; schemers have been known to smuggle debris into homes to convince homeowners that chimneys are in poor condition and require expensive fixes.

Consider choosing a chimney service company that is Chimney Safety Institute of America certified; this certification is not required by law but is recommended by most fire departments.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org
David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

Posted in Around the State, Better Business Bureau | Leave a comment

Consumer Protection Agencies Promote Cyber Security

STOP.THINK.CONNECT. Campaign Encourages Awareness During Cyber Security Month

 Anchorage, Alaska Oct. 7, 2013 – Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington is proud to announce its participation as a partner of STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™, a global cyber security awareness campaign to help digital citizens stay safer and more secure online.

STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ aims to address the growing problems with online security and cybercrime; BBB has partnered with STOP.THINK.CONNECT.™ to promote consistent, strong messaging.

“This partnership with STOP.THINK.CONNECT. represents BBB’s ongoing dedication to protecting digital consumers,” says Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “The marketplace is shifting to the Internet and cyber security knowledge is critical.”

BBB advises Internet users to take security measures, understand the consequences of their behavior and actions and enjoy the benefits of the Internet:

  • Keep Clean Machines: Keep all critical software—firewalls, virus scanners, Web browsers and operating systems—up to date.
  • Protect Personal Information: Secure accounts by making passwords long, strong and unique.
  • Own Online Presences: Set security and privacy settings to appropriate comfort levels.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: If emails, social network posts or text messages look suspicious, delete them immediately.
  • Share with Care: Good online citizens only post about others what they would want posted about themselves.

During October, BBB will be promoting National Cyber Security Awareness month; visit BBB’s Facebook page for more cyber security information.

Adam Harkness, Alaska Public Relations Manager & Social Media Manager: 907-644-5202 | pr@thebbb.org

David Quinlan, Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119

Posted in Better Business Bureau | Leave a comment