We’ve spent money for days shopping for those on our holiday wish list and perhaps ourselves as well. Now, it’s time to give back to our communities on “Giving Tuesday.” The holidays are about self-reflection and giving thanks for what you have and giving back to others. There are simple steps you can take to make sure your money is well spent.
If you’re not into giving back to others, how about giving a gift that is kind to the environment? Tuesday is also Green Tuesday, a day to promote green gift buying.
1. See how independent groups rank the charity
Charity Navigator – star system
Charity Guide from the Better Business Bureau
It’s been an exciting few weeks for Apple fans with the iPhone 5 hitting the market and expectations of an iPad Mini by months end. If you’re on the hunt for an Apple product, don’t fall for a free iPad 3 giveaway making the rounds through email. It could cost you money or your identity.
The Better Business Bureau warned about a bogus email that claims to be from a Google Gmail provider. The email says random Gmail users have been selected to receive a free Apple iPad 3. To claim, you need to clink a link. The link takes you to a survey site that requests personal information.
The BBB said if you complete the survey, you are inviting the scammers to sign you up for SMS services which will lead to more fees on your cell phone bill. The worst case scenario is that your information is used for identity theft.
These scams may be tempting because so many businesses give away iPads in promotions. To win a prize, though, you need to enter. In this case, you didn’t enter anything which should be the red flag. Only do business with legitimate companies to minimize your risk.
Want to file a complaint against a business on the go, or want to find out what others think about a business at the last minute? The Better Business Bureau launched an Apple Store app that allows you to access their database of more than 4 million businesses on the go.
You’ll be able to search for local businesses by name, phone, URL, or category, your current zip code, state, city, or location. The search results can be displayed in list or map views. The app works on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
Feel strongly, good or bad, about a business? Now, you can have your voice heard by posting your feelings on the Better Business Bureau’s website. The pilot program is being tested in 10 cities including Cleveland.
The BBB will review the comments to make sure fake ones don’t slip through, and they will be edited for foul langauge. The business will get 24-48 hours to respond to the comment.
Greater Cleveland BBB President, David Weiss, said, “We’re also limiting reviews to consumers who actually had an experience with the company. If you don’t like what your employer pays you, that review is not going to be posted on this site.”
Some of the comments already appearing include, “Have received great service every time I visit.” Another customer wrote the following comment under another business profile, ”You have to be prepared to be annoyed. These people need a class on how to operate a business.”
The BBB says this will give consumers another option beside filing a formal complaint. The comments will become part of the business’s profile on the BBB site.
The Better Business Bureau warns of scams tied to recent tragedies. There’s a bogus post on Facebook regarding the shootings in Norway, and the death of Amy Winehouse.
The Norway shooting tragedy link claims to take you to video from an Oslo security camera showing a car bomb detonating. The BBB says the post says “[Video] OSLO Security Camera Captures Blast!”
You’d think people wouldn’t fall for it, but Help Net Security says the scam is infecting one user per second.
The BBB says the other scam deals with the death of Amy Winehouse luring in victims with allegedly leaked video of her final moments. According to data security firm, Sophos, the post variations include “Leaked Video!! Amy Winehouse On Crack hours before death,” “Video leaked of Amy Winehouse’s death!!! Warning: Graphical Content,” and “SHOCKING – Amy Winehouse’s Final Minutes.” The post has a link to the video but you have to like the page and take a survey before you can see the video.
The BBB says the scammers earn a commission off the survey you take, and you’re asked to like the page to keep the scam going.
If you fell for this, delete it from your news feed and likes and interests. In general, don’t click on a link that doesn’t come from a trusted URL.
If you got a phone call in your hotel room in the middle of the night asking for your credit card number would you divulge it? According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving east Texas, hotel guests are falling for the scam.
According to the BBB, the caller identifies themself as a hotel employee and tells the guest the hotel computer system crashed. The BBB says the guest is told their credit card information is needed, and a discount on the room is offered for the inconvenience.
There is no indication this is a widespread ripoff at this point, but it caught my attention because it’s unique. If I got a call in the middle of the night, I’d probably tell the hotel employee to call back in the morning. I wouldn’t get out of bed to grab my wallet in the middle of the night. However, when people are awoken they are not thinking as clearly so someone may fall for the ripoff.
The Florida Attorney General announced an agreement with a company selling dietary aids, nutritional supplements, and teeth-whitening products. According to the AG, the company, XM Brands, did business as XM LABS, LLC. The good news is the AG’s Office says the company is cooperating and approximately $3 million has already been reimbursed to consumers nationwide.
The AG began investigating the company in December of 2009 when consumers said they received and were billed for products they did not order. The AG says if you agreed to the trial product, you were automatically billed for products.
If you have not been reimbursed, you have until April 29, 2011 to file a claim with the AG. The company’s website says it’s no longer accepting new orders for products on its site.
Many companies have come under fire from consumers over free trial offers. Make sure you read the fine print or site’s terms and conditions before you place your order or provide your credit card information.
Many trials work under what’s called a “negative option” plan. That’s when you get the product unless you say you don’t want it. Often, this is on a monthly basis so your credit card will be billed unless you cancel. Sometimes, it’s tough to cancel in time. So, look for hidden fees and catches to the free trial offer. They are all different, but look for the length of the trial period. When does it start? Is it the day you place the order or the day your shipment arrives at your home? How long do you have to decide you like the product? What’s the method of contact to confirm cancellation? Google the company and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience. Finally, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
Don’t just think a negative option plan covers trial offers. Some companies use these to extend your agreement or contract once an initial term is over. This may happen with your cell phone provider or cable or satellite provider. You have a small window to cancel the service contract, before your term is re-upped. So, read your contract if you’re forced to sign one and always ask about the terms and conditions of every offer before you give them your credit card or bank account number.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) took action to address the questions raised by investigations into their grading system by ABC’s 20/20 and the Connecticut Attorney General.
While the BBB is an organization consumers have trusted for decades, the new rating system has been under fire. Instead of giving a business a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating, the BBB changed to letter grades with pluses and minuses.
The new grading system raised concerns about “pay for play.” Businesses argued that they received better grades if they paid to become an accredited business. The BBB is discontinuing that policy and accredited business will no longer receive extra points in the grading system. The organization is also working with an independent third-party to review the accreditation process.
The BBB is also starting a complaint process online so you can report a concern about a BBB sales practice.
I think the television reports raised some valid concerns, but what the reports did not mention are the throngs of consumers who have successfully resolved problems because of the BBB. I’ve heard the negative comments from businesses, and even heard the phrase “pay for play” as the reasoning behind a poor rating. I hope the BBB continues to make changes to improve its system, so consumers can once again trust that every review they see is not a result of “pay for play.”