BBB Consumer Alert Roundup

phone scamThe Better Business Bureau recently issued a number of consumer warnings, so to make it easier for you to stay on top of them all, Consumer Ally decided to condense and combine a few below for your convenience.

Jamaican Phone Scams

The BBBs of Minnesota and North Dakota are warning area consumers to be suspicious of phone calls informing them they've won a prize package that includes a new car.

According to a consumer who contacted the BBB, when he expressed his doubts to the caller about the veracity of the prize, the scammer promised the prize was real and claimed an affiliation with the BBB.But the consumer wasn't buying it and contacted the BBB, who assured him the caller was a fraudster. According to the consumer's caller ID, the scammer's number had an 876 prefix, the local area code from Jamaica -- a frequent source of phone scams targeting Americans.

Consumers are advised to be "extremely leery" of calls telling them they've won cash or prizes -- especially calls claiming an affiliation with the BBB or FTC. Neither of these agencies ever award prizes, and they never endorse contests or sweepstakes.

"In virtually every case, calls like this are fraudulent in nature and designed solely to defraud consumers," the BBB cautions. "Anytime you're told you have to pay money upfront to claim a prize, you haven't won anything."

Real Estate Scam Targets Renters

The BBB of Columbus, Ga., is warning consumers not to be fooled by phony real estate ads that are far too good to be true.

The BBB reports that a local realtor contacted the owner of an area construction company regarding two properties he owned on behalf of a client who'd seen the following classified ad:

"Stop Renting, AVAILABLE NOW 2-4 Bedroom homes. Take Over Payments. No Money Down, No Credit Check. Call Now."

Turns out the properties were improperly and fraudulently listed on a Distressed/Foreclosure list sold to the realtor's client for $199 by scammers. The properties should never have appeared on a list of foreclosed properties, since they'd been paid for in full a number of years ago and the mortgages had long since been torn up.

The BBB advises renters taken in by this scam to immediately contact their bank and/or credit card company to dispute the charges and fraud alerts on those accounts. It also offers these tips to avoid similar scams:

  • Don't be fooled by any offers that are "too good to be true."
  • Deal locally with people you can meet in person.
  • Work with a trusted real estate professional.
  • Distressed Property lists are available locally for free.
  • Check with the BBB for trustworthy real estate companies

Small Business Targeted by Bogus Ad Offers

The BBB of Northwest Florida recently issued an alert about a company soliciting local businesses with a dubious sales pitch; the same business is now soliciting for high school football posters.

Ossian Enterprises, an "F-rated" company doing business as Communities Unlimited LLC, first targeted Northwestern Florida residents, claiming to sell advertising space in non-existent "local city guides" it claimed were distributed throughout the community.

Ossian Enterprises, the BBB warns, is at it again, this time as Ads Sports Inc., targeting small businesses via email with purported ads on high school football posters. The vague emails claim "up to 5,000 posters" will be distributed in September 2011 and that they "are doing all area High Schools."

A request from the BBB for additional information about which high schools Ads Sports Inc. is supporting has been ignored. The BBB urges small business owners to be careful when being solicited by anyone selling advertising space, and to always check past publications and contact local merchants who've done business with them.
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