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Home improvement scams are no laughing matter

I’m a fan of Tim Allen’s role as an accident-prone handyman on the 90’s hit TV comedy, Home Improvement. But in reality, hiring a good contractor isn’t something you just fall into. It helps to know the signs of a home improvement scam.I’m a fan of Tim Allen’s role as an accident-prone handyman on the 90’s hit TV comedy, Home Improvement. But in reality, hiring a good contractor isn’t something you just fall into. It helps to know the signs of a home improvement scam. If you’re not into DIY projects, it might make sense to hire a pro. Finding a capable and reliable contractor is important — a home improvement project gone wrong can cost you more than money; it can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems. A good ad isn’t proof a contractor does quality work. Find out for yourself. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve had improvement work done. Also check out a contractor’s reputation on online ratings sites you trust. Get written estimates from several firms, keeping in mind the lowest bidder may not be the best choice. How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? Don’t do business with someone who:
  • pressures you for an immediate decision
  • only accepts cash, asks you to pay everything up-front, or tells you to borrow money from a lender the contractor knows
  • is not licensed. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area.
  • “just happens” to have materials left over from a previous job.
For more tips, check out Hiring a Contractor. _________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Don't Fall for Credit Repair Scams

If you are planning to buy a house, lease a car or even get a new job, your credit score matters. Scammers know this, and they make a living preying on those desperate to improve their score. Lately, BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports from consumers targeted by credit repair scams.

If you are planning to buy a house, lease a car or even get a new job, your credit score matters. Scammers know this, and they make a living preying on those desperate to improve their score. Lately, BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports from consumers targeted by credit repair scams. 

How the Scam Works:

You get a phone call or see an ad for a company that claims it can instantly repair your credit. The offer grabs your attention. Your poor credit rating has been holding you back, so you decide to give it a try.  

You contact the company, and they promise to remove past credit mistakes, such as late payments or a bankruptcy, from your credit report. They may even offer to give you a new "credit identity." Don't fall for it! 

Both of these techniques are scams. Scam credit repair companies may persuade you to contest accurate information on your credit report. Others urge you to apply for a new ID number (typically one used by businesses for tax purposes) or provide you with a stolen Social Security number and tell you to apply for the loan with the new number. Misrepresenting yourself like this is illegal.

How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam: 

Not all businesses promising to help you repair bad credit are scams. Watch out for the following warning signs: 

  • You are asked to pay in advance: In the US and Canada, credit repair companies can only collect their fee after they perform the services promised.  
  • The company promises to remove negative information from your credit report. If the information is accurate, no one can remove it.  
  • You are urged to get a new "credit identity." In the US, some scam companies will ask you to apply for an Employer Identification Number instead of using your Social Security number. Misrepresenting your SSN is a crime. 
  • Beware of contract red flags. Make sure you sign a contract and that it contains the terms of your agreement, including the price, the time period and the services to be performed. 
  • Know you can cancel. If you signed up for a credit repair service and it looks suspicious, you can cancel. In Canada, you have 10 days, and, in the US, you have three days. 

For More Information

To learn more, check out these tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In Canada, check out the Ontario government's guide to credit reports and repair scams. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).

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The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Shutting down a sweepstakes scam that sought out seniors

In the past few years, you’ve heard warnings from us about differentscams that offered prizes like money, jewelry, or vacations – all in exchange for a fee. And we’ve heard from you to the tune of more than a quarter of a million complaints about prize and sweepstakes scams in the last three years. In the past few years, you’ve heard warnings from us about different scams that offered prizes like money, jewelry, or vacations – all in exchange for a fee. And we’ve heard from you to the tune of more than a quarter of a million complaints about prize and sweepstakes scams in the last three years. Thanks in part to those complaints,today the FTC put a stop to a sweepstakes scam targeting older people. The victims got an official-looking letter with seals, stamps, and identification numbers that said they had won $2 million dollars or more. To claim their millions all they had to do was send $20-$30 by cash, check, or money order. Sadly, the only ones collecting millions were the scam artists, who the FTC estimates made more than $25 million from the scheme. If you get a letter, an email, a text message or a phone call that says you’ve won a prize, here’s what you can do to steer clear of a scam. Never pay to collect a prize. Whatever they say the money is for – taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees – don’t believe them. Don’t send money or give them your checking account or credit card number. Don’t let yourself be rushed. Scammers will tell you to act now or you’ll miss out. Take your time and talk to someone you trust before you do anything. Tell people you know about it. By talking about scams, you might help someone you care about avoid falling for one. Tell the FTC about it. Report scams at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP. Your report makes a difference and could help make losers out of scam artists running bogus sweepstakes. _________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Fake Hotel Booking Websites Fool Travelers

Taking a vacation this summer? Be extra careful when booking accommodations online. Fake websites appear to offer travelers a convenient way to reserve hotel rooms, but they are just making money for scammers.

Taking a vacation this summer? Be extra careful when booking accommodations online. Fake websites appear to offer travelers a convenient way to reserve hotel rooms, but they are just making money for scammers. 

 How the Scam Works: 

You are planning a trip and need to book a hotel room. You see an online ad promoting hotel rooms at a cheap price, and you click it. You are directed to a website that looks legitimate. It may have a URL similar to the real hotel website or established third-party booking site, such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com. The website may also use the same logo, colors and/or design of the legitimate site. 

The website might look okay, but it's a fraud. Scammers are creating fake hotel booking websites to steal money from travelers. Some scam sites make money by tacking on additional fees, but others charge you for a room that simply doesn't exist. In any case, sharing your credit card and personal information (such as name, address and phone number) on scam websites puts you at risk for identity theft. 

How to Spot a Fake Website 

Here's how to spot a fake website: 

  1. Don't believe what you see: The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate hotel or booking site, but that can be easily copied from the real website. 
  2. Look out for fake contact info: Some consumers report calling the 1-800 number posted on a scam hotel booking site to confirm its legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the hotel. 
  3. Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (brandwebsite.net or brandwebsite.co)
  4. Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with "HTTPS" and has a lock icon.
  5. Watch for too good to be true deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere. 

For More Information

To learn more, check out this alert and infographic from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).

_____________________

The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.