Many consumers often pride themselves on being good judges of character, with a nose for nonsense. Most would claim to be savvy about making purchasing decisions. Sadly, that is not always the case. Better Business Bureaus routinely field complaints from consumers who have fallen prey to scam artists. They may have been too distracted to thoroughly investigate the offer, perhaps were too eager to take advantage of a bargain price, or the sales person was too quick in their sales pitch for the consumer to make an informed decision.
A quick review of recent incidents reported to BBBs can serve as a reminder for consumers everywhere. Always check out unknown companies or questionable offers with the BBB!
Door to Door Solicitations: Consumers in Tennessee and Kentucky have reported to BBB two men wandering through local neighborhoods looking for homes with security signs in the yard. The men then approach the homeowner and say "I"m from the alarm company," use high pressure sales tactics and indicate they are there to upgrade the homeowner"s alarm system. Homeowners end up signing new contracts with the assumption they are doing business with their current alarm contractor; however, after the men leave the consumer discovers they"ve just signed a contract with a different alarm company.
- BBB Advice: Many city and county governments issue photo identification cards to door to door salespeople. The ID includes the salesperson"s permit number and their picture. If the salesperson does not have an ID they can be fined. This law does not cover nonprofit fund raisers such as Girl Scouts selling cookies. Nor does it apply to people delivering newspapers or food. The law was established to protect citizens against fraud, and phony sales people who may be checking out homes for burglaries to see whether people are home and what they have to steal. If a salesperson does not have an ID you should report it to the Police. Consumers should be aware, however, that it could be possible for these permits to be counterfeited. So asking to see an ID is only a first step. You should also ask questions about the person's company, and call the Better Business Bureau for a reliability report. If at any time you do not feel comfortable letting someone into your home, do not allow yourself to feel pressured in to doing so. Consumers should also be familiar with the FTC's Three Day "Cooling Off" rule, which allows consumers to cancel a door to door transaction within three business days if the sale was $25 or more. For more information visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro03.pdf.
Credit Card Scams: We"ve all said "it won"t happen to me," but calls to the BBB about credit card scams happen more often than not. In this scam the con artist does not ask for your credit card number…they already have it. Here"s how it works: you receive a call from somebody claiming to be with the security and fraud department with VISA or Master Card. The caller states your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern and they are calling to verify. The caller then asks if you"ve purchased an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona. When you say ‘No", the caller continues stating they will be issuing a credit and that will be sent to your address, which they read back to you. Once you verify the address is correct the caller says he will be starting a fraud investigation and any questions should be directed to the security department by calling the 800 # listed on the back of the credit card. Here"s how the scam works: The caller then says he needs to verify you are in possession of your credit card and asks for the 3 digits on the back of the card. There are 7 numbers; first four numbers are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. After you read the 3 numbers the caller will say that is correct. Once everything is verified the caller asks if you have any questions. After you say No, the caller hangs up.
- BBB Advice: Never give personal information to parties you are unfamiliar with. If you receive such a call hang up and contact your credit card company immediately to report the fraud, file a police report and contact your BBB. VISA and Master Card already have your information on file and would never call and ask you to disclose security codes or provide information verifying physical possession of the card.
Mystery Shoppers: Classified newspaper ads and telephone solicitations continue to promise fast money for mystery shopping careers; however, BBB has been inundated with calls from consumers claiming they"ve been scammed by mystery shopping offers. If you respond to a mystery shopping offer you may find a web site claiming to help you get daily work, all for a $25 - $35 fee. BBB has found that these web sites have one thing in common, raking in your hard earned cash, while providing little resources for helping you actually obtain work as a Mystery Shopper.
- BBB Advice: BBB urges consumers to carefully research any ‘mystery shopper" business. Understand whether the company is offering to employ you directly or merely provide you with information about mystery shopping for a fee. If you are asked to purchase training materials, or a directory of companies that offer mystery shopping opportunities exercise caution.
Look for reputable firms that:
- Qualify and train mystery shoppers to perform specific evaluations
- Enjoy a good reputation with their clients and shoppers
- Do NOT charge a fee to complete an application. You might choose to pay for a mystery shopper database, but NEVER PAY to sign up to be in a mystery shopper program or to be on their waiting list.
If you want to become a Mystery Shopper follow this advice:
- The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) has established the following three steps for potential shoppers who want a trouble free way to become established within the Mystery Shopping industry.
- Visit the MSPA web site, http://www.mysteryshop.org/shoppers.php, for a FREE listing of companies. Most companies allow applications to be submitted via their web sites AT NO COST TO THE SHOPPER. This is a great first step to gain exposure to a diverse range of companies and to increase the potential of accepting more mystery shops.
- Check out the MSPA web site Shoppers Bulletin Board http://www.mysteryshop.org/forumindex.php for available shopping assignments
- Once you start accepting assignments, always follow through on deadlines, meet the shop job criteria, and provide as much detailed information as possible. Shoppers who are on time and provide excellent information are most likely to obtain more and better assignments the following months. Once you establish yourself with different companies by meeting deadlines and completing the assignments based on the criteria required, they will recognize you as a topnotch shopper. Your reputation can go a long way so, build it, maintain it and success in mystery shopping will find you!
Start With Trust