Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau – Southern Piedmont, who recently met with more than 40 business leaders at a monthly Denver Area Business Association (DABA) meeting, explained the purpose and function of the organization.
In addition to discussing consumer complaints that arise between a consumer and a business, or between or among businesses, in which many often turn to the BBB, he also put those in attendance on the alert regarding scams that equally affect businesses and consumers.
One involves â€œphishing,â€ which are emails used in an attempt to commit identity theft by gaining personal information.
In the emails, there is a link provided to the â€œweb siteâ€ of a particular company; however, that is not the companyâ€™s official web site.
â€œOnce you click on the link to that site, the hacker will grab data,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œHackers are sending out thousands of emails to businesses. Be aware.â€ He added the BBB itself is itself a target of â€œphishers.â€
Another involves the mail; specifically, â€œred flag bandits,â€ perpetrators who steal checks.
â€œThese are people who look through mail of both consumers and businesses,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œTheyâ€™re looking for checks, both personal and payroll.â€
Once these individuals get ahold of checks, the checks are duplicated and sent across the country. Unsuspecting people who receive checks and cash them later discover the checks are bogus.
Cuurently, a major scam underway regards people being notified they have won something. In this scam, a person who has â€œwonâ€ is required to send money (sometimes called a processing fee) in order to collect the supposed winnings.
â€œIn the last several months, scammers have started sending emails about foreign lottery winnings,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œThe scammers are sending bogus $5,000 checks to people.â€
The scammer then requires the person to send a money order for $5,000. Only later does the person discover the check isnâ€™t authentic.
â€œThe catch is, the person is sending the money order to Canada for winning the Australian lottery,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œTens of thousands of people from the U.S. are falling for this.â€
Bartholomy said that if a person has truly won something, he or she isnâ€™t required to pay anything upfront to collect winnings.
Scams not only hit a business and/or consumers in the pocketbook, something more important is taken, especially from the business.
â€œA business or personâ€™s reputation is damaged,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œReputation in business and personal life is valuable.â€
To most people, the BBBâ€™s reputation primarily rests upon its reporting upon businesses and its capacity to work to resolve differences between feuding parties.
According to Bartholomy, more than 30,000 people per month used the BBB to check on information on companies, and he credits the Internet with the explosive use of the BBB.
â€œOnce we put information on more than 25,000 companies in the Southern Piedmont online, the use exploded,â€ said Bartholomy.
Bartholomy said that more than 12,000 people turned to the BBB for complaints in 2006. There was an 85 percent resolution rate in 19 days or less.
â€œComparatively, in 2005, the resolution rate was 75 percent in 36 days or less,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œWeâ€™ve had an increase in the number of complaints but weâ€™re able to resolve more of them.â€
Once a complaint is received, the business is notified by email.
â€œItâ€™s not a good idea to ignore a complaint,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œWeâ€™re mediators and we have to bring valid complaints to a resolution.â€
Bartholomy said that a quarter of all complaints his office receives arenâ€™t legitimate. He cited as an example a recent visit from a Lake Norman homebuilder where it was discovered two of three complaints against that homebuilder were not valid.
However, the process resolving the issue between customer and the homebuilder was not a smooth one, especially on the part of the builder.
â€œHe was threatening bodily harm at first,â€ said Bartholomy. â€œWithin 30 minutes, the man decided to resolve the complaints.â€
He added that once everything was straightened out, the builder and customer were able to reach mutually satisfactory solutions.
About the BBB
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912, its general purpose to check on advertising. Nowadays, the BBB (and in this region, the BBB of Southern Piedmont) can assist both consumers and businesses who are looking for information or complaint resolution.
Businesses that want to join the BBB have to go through 14 different standards in order to qualify. Those standards include being able to promptly respond to any complaints forwarded by the BBB and comply with any decisions made by the BBB. Today, there are more than 300,000 businesses nationwide that are BBB members.
For consumers who want to complain or research a company, the national database of more than 20 million companies is located at: www.bbb.org
The BBB – Southern Piedmont is located at 13860 Ballantyne Corporate Place, Suite 225, Charlotte, NC 28277. Itâ€™s hours are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. Representatives are available 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Phone is (704) 927-8611; the phone line is open 24 hours. Fax is (704) 927-8615. The local web site is: www.charlotte.bbb.org. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Jon Mayhew