Two Credit Score Agencies Forfeit Fees to the Government

As a result of deceptive marketing practices, two of the three biggest credit reporting agencies in the U.S. agree to repay consumers more than $17.6 million.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Equifax and TransUnion advertised their credit scores programs inaccurately, overstating the potential usefulness. The two companies promised customers their credit score programs were equivalent to credit scores banks provide customers; however, according to the CFFB, banks and lenders tend to use a variety of credit scores, thus no rating is universally acceptable.

The two companies also falsely advertised subscription services as “free” or only costing $1. Instead, services cost $16 monthly, unless the customer carefully read the fine print and opted-out of the contract.

As a part of the CFFB settlement agreement with Equifax and TransUnion, the companies will change their marketing practices to include more transparency in products/services descriptions and less complex contracts that make it easier for customers to opt-out of reoccurring monthly payments.

Customers looking to pull their credit reports can visit annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized source under federal law for free annual credit reports.

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Scam alert: Fake FTC email pops up again

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Just when you thought you’d never see a scam again, it pops right back up. That’s what the Federal Trade Commission is saying about a scam they first talked about in 2015.

The scam works like this. Continue reading

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US agency launches investigation into Dodge Durango SUVs and Ram pickups

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An estimated one million Fiat Chrysler produced vehicles are under investigation after reports of vehicles rolling away when consumers shifted their transmission to park. Continue reading

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Cuisinart announces recall of 8 million food processors

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Cuisinart has announced a recall of about 8 million of its food processors after Conair, the company’s owner, received 69 reports of consumers finding broken pieces of the blade in processed food, including 30 reports of mouth lacerations or tooth injuries. Continue reading

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Ways to secure your IoT devices

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It seems like nowadays everything is connected to the internet. Whether it’s your phone, television, home appliances, and even your car. While before it may have been a crazy thought to have these devices connected online, it’s no longer a strange thing.

But with this connectivity comes vulnerability. Continue reading

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BBB Investigation: Barn construction company customers allege losing thousands

 

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COLLEGE STATION, TexasA local College Station barn builder is facing allegations from customers who claim they paid thousands of dollars upfront and never had their projects completed. The builder is also facing civil lawsuits in two Texas counties.

According to complaints filed with BBB against the business, consumers allege Lonestar Barn Company has yet to complete promised projects. Continue reading

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Giving Tuesday Tips

Black Friday is over, Cyber Monday is wrapping up, and tomorrow on #GivingTuesday (November 29) many will consider how to give back to their local charities. This Tuesday and during the entire Holiday Season, BBB urges donors to #GiveWisely by avoiding scams and supporting trustworthy charities. Check out our #GivingTuesday Tips so you can give with confidence:

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BBB Historian tricked into buying phony MLB jersey

 

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“If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

It’s these words John Etchieson, current BBB Historian and former President and CEO of BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin, learned the hard way. It all started when he saw an advertisement on his social media account for a Major League Baseball jersey that he couldn’t pass up.

“I encountered an ad on my Facebook page that advertised an end of the season clearance sale of an official MLB jersey for 80 percent off,” Etchieson said.

Not wanting to miss the clearance sale, Etchieson purchased the advertised jersey. Ten days later, he became suspicious when the payment had been processed, but the jersey had not arrived.

“I had not received my jersey and looked at my bank account records and discovered payments had been made to a firm located in China,” Etchieson said.

Etchieson then talked with someone at the official MLB shop and learned that MLB merchandise is only shipped from a postal addresses in the United States. He also found out from the representatives that he wasn’t alone in this scam.

“’The representative said it happens frequently that the official MLB logo is stolen and used to trick unsuspecting consumers,” Etchieson said.

Etchieson also stated that the experience was something he will learn from, and that he will only buy MLB products using the official retailer. 

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Telemarketing scammers get sued by FTC for promising free money

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The Federal Trade Commission announced they are suing a Phoenix-based telemarketing company that allegedly tricked consumers out of millions of dollars.

According to the FTC, different business names  like Federal Government Grant Assistance Center, US Federal Grant Department, Amazon.com Associates Program, and Amazon Affiliate Program were used to trick seniors, veterans, and debt-laden consumers into believing they could gain thousands of dollars by selling them a money-making opportunity supposedly linked to Amazon.com, and luring them with a phony grants program.

In their complaint, the FTC claims the defendants’ telemarketers falsely told people they represent Amazon and offered, for hundreds or thousands of dollars, to create a website for them linked to Amazon.com. They claimed it would earn them thousands of dollars every month in commissions for sales via the website.

They also falsely offered to advertise the consumer’s website and use search engine optimization to drive customers to it.

Additionally, the telemarketers asked for thousands of dollars upfront to people while claiming to represent the government and falsely told them they can get government grants to help pay for home repairs, medical costs, and paying down debt.

For those people who did pay the, the FTC says they never received any grants or commissions and the defendants ignored their requests for refunds.

A federal court has temporarily halted the operation. The federal agency is looking to end the alleged illegal practices and obtain money back to the consumers.

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BBB Investigation: Consumers claim utility terrain vehicle company fails to deliver ordered products

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When Jack Canon of Pecos, Texas, was trying to find the perfect accessories to fit his Polaris utility vehicle, he happened to stumble upon Texas Outdoors’ website. The company manufactures UTV accessories and is based in Garden Ridge, Texas, outside of San Antonio. Canon was looking to buy a roof, a stereo sound system and some other equipment for his vehicle. He thought he had found the best site for his needs.

“It was easy. I just filled out a form of what I wanted then submitted it. The company emailed me back with the final price,” Canon said.

The final price turned out to be around $2,000. Canon was told through email he could only pay for his products with a check.

“Nick told me he didn’t accept credit cards,” Canon said.

Although hesitant, Canon agreed to mail the check and placed the order online in late November 2015.

Texas Outdoors owner, Nicholas Schycker, told Canon in an email he would receive everything in two weeks.

Those two weeks turned into four months, according to Canon. Schycker allegedly told Canon he was experiencing delays. The two initially kept in contact, but Canon said Schycker eventually stopped answering phone calls and emails.

“He wasn’t responding to me. So, I asked for a refund on everything,” Canon said.

After requesting the refund, Canon said Schycker responded to him and told him he should be receiving his order shortly. His order came in early March; however, the $550 stereo sound system he ordered was missing. Canon then decided his next step was to file a complaint with BBB.

“I just wanted my money refunded or for the sound system to be delivered,” Canon said.

Schycker promised to refund Canon the full amount and to “make it good,” but Canon said he has yet to receive the money.

Based on complaints BBB has received, other customers of Texas Outdoors also allege their items were never delivered. In the past year, Texas Outdoors has received 15 complaints. The complainants allege after paying the company through check, they had limited communication with the business. On average, customers allegedly lost close to $1,200.

One consumer BBB spoke with, Skyler Dusek, said he was able to get a full refund of nearly $4,300 from the business after waiting five months for his parts and equipment to be delivered. He eventually involved local law enforcement and drove down to Texas Outdoors’ physical location.

“They wouldn’t answer the phone and everything had stopped. They finally sent a money order after the sheriff’s department got involved,” Dusek said.

BBB emailed Texas Outdoors in September asking them to address the pattern of complaints. Owner Nicholas Schycker responded by email saying he would be submitting a formal response, but none was ever received.

BBB also attempted to find a business filing for Texas Outdoors through the Texas Secretary of State and local county clerk. According to the Texas Secretary of State, a business operating in Texas is required to register in the state. BBB found multiple corporations under Nicholas Schycker’s name. However, the corporations are currently listed as having forfeited existences.

When ordering items online, it’s important to know what risk you may be taking.

BBB offers the following tips:

  • Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card online means your transaction may be protected by theFair Credit Billing Act. This law allows you to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. Some credit card companies may also provide added protections and won’t hold you responsible for unauthorized charges. Remember, paying by check is just like cash.
  • Read about the policies, along with terms and conditions. Are you able to return the item if you’re not satisfied with it? Are there any additional fees? What is the refund policy? These questions are normally answered in a company’s terms and conditions on their website. Make sure you understand them, along with any policies before making a purchase.
  • Keep key information. Be sure to save any receipts or emails you receive from the company. This can be essential when filing a dispute with your credit card company. Keep a watchful eye on your online transactions, too. Make sure there are no additional charges that you don’t recognize.
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