New Alerts from the BBB...and warnings of Smishing & Vishing Scams

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The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana has released its latest list of consumer hints and warnings. Though the BBB has offered these warnings for Indiana residents, it's important to note that these types of practices and complaints often take place across the country. Every consumer should be aware of these types of complaints handled by the BBB as well as the latest scams.

This list is current as of Oct. 31. (see earlier list here)

The BBB asks readers to take into consideration the importance of the practice in question, and the total performance of the company. For complete information on these and any other businesses, please visit

1. Craigs List operates Internet classifieds, personals, job postings, items for sale, discussion forums and resumes, etc. They state they have the right "to change, modify or otherwise alter" their terms and conditions "at any time." They also state, "We may charge a fee to post content in some areas of service." A consumer said he paid $1.95 for information and then was charged $39.90 monthly. He told the BBB that he never saw anything about charges until the company pointed to the "fine print." This San Francisco company has the BBB's lowest rating because of unanswered complaints.

2. Cash 4 Gold is advertising on TV. They state they will pay consumers cash for unwanted gold. One consumer mailed her gold fillings to them, and was promised $300. She didn't get it. The company advertises they are accredited through the BBB. They are NOT, and the BBB says it is pursuing this issue. This Florida company has 149 complaints against it, with 133 about the company not performing as they claimed.

3. DirecTV has 22,010 complaints filed against them, generally alleging problems relating to billing disputes and discrepancies concerning pre-paid programming, introductory specials or late statements resulting in late fees. Others complain of inadequate customer service and inability to contact the company. The majority of their complaints have been resolved.

4. Gas Card Con Men are calling Consumers offering free gas -- BUT there is a $1.97 shipping fee. The caller just needs your credit card number. An Indiana consumer has been called three times. The caller ID shows up as "Unknown Caller." The BBB says that most likely, these scammers are calling from a foreign company using a disposable cell phone. Don't give out your credit card information -- it's a scam.

5. DLH Marketing is advertising a "genuine opportunity" in Indiana newspapers. An Indiana consumer thought he was going to be a home mail processor, so he sent $35 to the offer, thinking his "earning potential was unlimited." The company was guaranteeing "100 percent" satisfaction. The consumer did not receive his start-up kit. The BBB believes this may be the age-old stuffing-and-addressing envelopes scam. Warning: if you get involved, you risk investigation and prosecution by the Postal Inspectors.

6. Imperial Majestic Cruise/Plaza Resorts is contacting Consumers about a vacation they have "won." According to an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance signed with the Florida Attorney General's office, this company agrees to give the actual company name and additional fees, advise if the fee is non-refundable and to inform consumers that one of the conditions of the vacation is a "guided tour of a vacation ownership resort." So far 1,218 complaints have been filed against this Florida company.

7. SAS Group sells various products on TV such as Smart Lids and Awesome Auger and others. The BBB warns consumers to be aware that shipping, handling and processing fees are nonrefundable. These fees are charged per item, and are not based on the total weight. So far 539 complaints have been filed against this Wisconsin company.

8. Lighting Products Company of Connersville is cold-calling consumers and businesses, asking consumers to verify their phone number, and then their name, in order to receive a free gift. Then the consumer usually receives two boxes of light bulbs with two invoices amounting to $600 to $700, whether requested or not. If the consumer refuses to pay, a 25 percent re-stocking fee is charged, plus shipping and handling. Consumers state they did not receive the free gift.

9. Consumer Resource Network/Kohl Group sells publications containing information on foreclosures and auctions of personal property that the BBB says can be found in local newspapers. One Hoosier thought he was buying one book. He was debited $39.99 a month for a year on a credit card he rarely used before he discovered the problem. Complaints allege unauthorized charges and difficulty obtaining refunds. This California company has the BBB's lowest rating.

10. Union Workers Credit Services is mailing a solicitation to Consumers offering a credit card, but after paying $37 for it, consumers find they can only use the cardboard card to buy items from the company's catalog. So far 365 complaints have been filed against this Texas company.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Don't be fooled by credit card offers that aren't really credit "cards." Get out your magnifying glass and read the fine print before committing yourself to one of these offers, or sending money to them. If it's not a major credit card or company or retailer, very often these offers are memberships to buying warehouse or catalog buying "clubs" that obligate you to monthly charges where you purchase something or not. They also often restrict you to using your "card" only for the products the club carries.

With the economy spiraling downward, criminals are always on the prowl to find new and innovative techniques to con you out of data and money. Scams to be on alert for, and growing in popularity, are the two equally dangerous sister scams, to the better known scam called "phishing".

Beware of "smishing" and "vishing" scams! These scams come via your cell phones -as opposed to your email.

The term "Vishing" comes from a combination of voice and phishing. Vishing works like phishing but does not always occur over the Internet and is carried out using voice technology. The potential victim may receive a voice mail that may be generated by speech synthesis. The message may claim that suspicious activity has taken place on one of your credit card accounts, bank account, mortgage, cell phone account or other service in your name. See earlier Blog: "Vishing" Scam turning popular for thieves...don't fall victim to voice mail scam!

"Smishing" is derived from the familiar "phishing." The "sm" comes from SMS, the protocol used to transmit text messages via cellular devices. Smishing victims receive SMS (text) messages. See earliers Blog:"Smishing": The Wicked Twin of "Phishing"... may be Targeting your Cell Phone .

Also read Mark Kellner from the Washington Times story today: Don't get hooked...

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