Better Business Bureau Tips for Consumers

by Shada Roper
     The Better Business Bureau of the Greater Maryland area posts this important warnings for consumers:

     Internet Auctions
     For consumers in Baltimore internet auctions have become a way of allowing them to sell or buy almost anything. This can be fun and a bargain, however, consumer beware. Collector items such as Beenie Babies have turned out to be counterfeits and valuable antiques are recently made imitations. Before purchasing from the internet remember:

  1. Nothing is guaranteed and there is no way to control fraud. Internet Fraud watch reports that auction fraud was their largest area of complaints in ‘98 and that the average lost was $211 per complaint. None of the auctions screen their listings for accuracy nor quality.
  2. Be aware that some sellers log on with anonymous e-mail addresses that can be untraceable. Money orders, certified checks, or cashiers checks are a bad idea, use a credit card that won’t charge you until you advise them the product is good.
  3. And watch out for “shilling”, this is where the seller sets up another e-mail account and posts bids for his own merchandise. He creates a phantom bidder and inflates the price.
     Lawn Service Contracts
     Keeping a lawn well in the spring and summer can be a hard job. Finding a good lawn contractor is even harder:
  1. Ask questions about what type of service they provide. A full service will give you a lawn analysis.
  2. Talk with neighbors who also participate in lawn care.
  3. Review the contract carefully.
  4. Find out if they offer a guarantee and if they do so, get it in writing.
  5. Most pesticides vary, some are more environmentally safe than others and also find out about risk to children and pets. Also make sure they post warning signs for neighbors.
  6. Most service contracts renew so if you want to cancel you must call them don’t wait for them to call you.
     Protect Your Privacy Online
     When shopping on the internet costumers are often uneasy about giving personal information like address and credit card information. To protect yourself remember:
  1. Many merchants have a privacy policy on their web site. This tells what personal information will be requested from you and why. Beware of businesses that don’t display a privacy policy.
  2. Protect your password and never give out password to anyone claiming to be your Internet Service Provider. Be creative when forming a password and change it periodically.
  3. Check that secure your server browser before giving credit card numbers.
  4. Make sure web site has Better Business Bureau reliability seal. Also if the company does not provide detailed information on its company beware.
  5. Teach your children protection.
     Y2K Scams
     Some scammers are using the Y2K scare to steal money from confused victims. People are being phoned and told that because of the Y2 situation their savings accounts are in danger and that they need the victim’s account number, beware, your bank already has your account number. Also consumers are being told to buy gold or silver claiming paper money will be worthless. Most times the prices are much higher that local coin and gold stores so beware of mail order promoters. Small business managers are also being tricked into believing that their Y2 problem can be quickly fixed by “consultant” who charge higher prices, beware.
     Before dealing with any unknown companies and services contact your Better Business Bureau 24 hours a day at (900)-225-5222 and for questions concerning Y2K call 1-888-USA.A. Y2K. You may write to the BBB, 2100 Huntingdon Ave., Baltimore Md 21211.

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This story was published on May 5, 1999.