Category Archives: General

BBB Tips: Identity Theft

By:  Council of Better Business Bureaus

Protecting your identity is largely your own responsibility. The first rule of ID protections is:  if you don’t need it, destroy it – responsibly

Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas, AARP-Missouri and Office of the Kansas Attorney General have partnered to offer a free shred event. BBB’s across the country are hosting shred events in support of “Secure Your ID Day”.  For a by state list of events, click here.

Everyday Habits to Safeguard Your Identity 

Scams are designed to either steal your money now, or steal your identity now in order to steal your money later. Scammers have all kinds of techniques to collect personally identifiable information (PII). Once they have it, they can effectively become you, using your identity to open accounts, file taxes, or obtain medical coverage.

How the Scam Works:

With enough information about you, a scammer can take over your identity and commit a wide range of crimes. Scammers can make false applications for loans and credit cards, withdraw money from your bank account, or obtain services that the scammer would otherwise be denied.

Identity theft may take a long time to detect. Scammers typically ensure that bills and statements for new accounts are not sent to your address. You may not notice what is happening until the scammer has already inflicted substantial damage on your assets, credit, and reputation.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is very important to act quickly.      In the U.S., visit www.identitytheft.gov for information on how to stop and recover from identity theft. In Canada, the Anti-Fraud Centre has information on identity theft.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

  • Look for unexplained withdrawals, charges, and accounts.When reviewing your bank account, credit card statements, or credit reports, you notice unfamiliar charges, accounts or withdrawals. You may stop receiving certain bills because scammers have changed the address associated with your bank account or credit card. Debt collectors may call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • Check your credit reports regularly for unauthorized inquiries and accounts.In the U.S., you have the right to check your credit report with each of the three credit bureaus once per year at annualcreditreport.com.      Space these checks out across the year, and you will know fairly quickly if something is awry. In Canada, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada provides information on requesting a free credit report.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

 

Employee Spotlight: Cherie Reese, Vice President

By Dustin Johnson

Cherie Reese is the current Vice President of the BBB of Greater Kansas City. She has been with the BBB since 1993, starting from a complaint specialist and working her way through many roles. Her passion is helping people avoid scams and promoting good trustworthy business practices.

Cherie has many hobbies, one of her favorites would be S.C.U.B.A. diving and she has traveled to a few choice destinations to enjoy underwater sites. She helped start a dive shop in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and also helped start a computer software company to help companies become Y2K compliant. Other hobbies are art, painting and sketching, visiting museums, going to festivals and exploring new restaurants. Spending time with mother, Jean Young, two sons Steve and Aaron Reese and two grandsons, Nikolas and Zackery Reese is very important to Cherie. Marley, the bichon dog, is definitely part of the family and demands play time as soon as she walks through the door.

Cherie and her significant other, Steve, love to find new restaurants and try new dishes. Traveling to the Lake of the Ozarks, staying at their cabin, and inviting people to share the fun with, is something they also love.

How Does BBB Accreditation Help Charities?

By Jennifer McGlothen

Before we answer that question, let’s affirm that the Better Business Bureau offers accreditation to charitable organizations. Yes, we do! That is a little known fact about BBB services.

It may also be a surprise to know that only about 30% of donors do any research before donating to a charity, which leaves an overwhelming majority vulnerable to scams. Several sources state that charity fraud is on the rise.  It certainly doesn’t help that the IRS has a simplified version of the application form for tax exempt status for some groups, and also reduced the processing fee.  So, the number of new charities is rising dramatically.  It is vitally important that information is available to help donors make wise giving decisions. Equally important is for organizations to be accountable and transparent in providing this information. BBB Charity Review is a solution on both counts.

The charity review program of the Kansas City BBB began in 2009. Since 2012 when I came on board, one of the main challenges that I hear about from organizations is how to build awareness. BBB Charity Review can also help charities in this area. The BBB brand is strong, recognizable and communicates trust.

Charity review is a free service, providing an avenue for charities to demonstrate accountability and for donors to make informed giving decisions. We produce reports about local / regional charities, evaluating them against  comprehensive BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability.

What is the BBB Wise Giving Alliance?

BBB WGA reports on nationally soliciting charities that the public has most often asked about as well as charities that request to be evaluated. Give.org reports on about 1,300 nationally soliciting charities. In addition, about half of the 112 Better Business Bureaus in the United States and Canada (Kansas City BBB being one of them) cumulatively produce reports on over 10,000 locally soliciting charities using the same BBB Charity Standards as BBB WGA. Charities can be searched at give.org.

How does a charity become accredited?

A great first step is to review the BBB Charity Accountability Standards to make sure your organization is prepared to meet them. Here are abbreviated infographics to get a basic visual overview of the standards.  Please visit How We Accredit Charities for details.Standards Infographics Poster

Next step is to submit an enrollment form at https://www.give.org/enroll-your-charity?BureauID=0674 , after which access to our online questionnaire based on the standards is provided.

The questionnaire is completed, financial statements, an annual report and samples of fundraising appeals are uploaded.  After evaluation, BBB provides an initial review and where possible works with an organization to allow an opportunity to meet any standards not met. A charity must meet all 20 standards covering governance, effectiveness, finances and fundraising for accreditation.  A draft report is provided for review prior to publishing.

As long as a charity meets all standardsthere is the OPTION to license the seal for use on the organization’s website and fundraising materials. The licensing fee is annual, $125, $225 or $325 depending on organization revenue. All accredited charities are included in promotional efforts of the Kansas City BBB, whether they license the seal or not.

Here’s what staff members of accredited organizations have to say:

Assistance League of Kansas CityAssistance League of Kansas City® fulfills specific unmet needs of children and adults in the Kansas City area through ten philanthropic programs developed, funded and operated by dedicated volunteers and community partners.

“BBB accreditation adds tremendous credibility for our business, The RESALE Shop, which is our main fundraiser for our programs, and also helped us with transparency to our donors.”

~ Cindy McGinnis, Strategic Planning Chairman

Angel Flight Central serves people in need by arranging charitable flights for health afc-logocare or other humanitarian purposes.  

“The review process was, and continues to be an OUTSTANDING exercise for our organization to go through – and regardless of the outcome, we are operating more efficiently, effectively and transparently as a result of the review questions.  The challenge attracts great conversation, planning and continuous evolving. It’s a low-cost, healthy exercise that can only lead to positive results.  We very much look forward to utilizing all of BBB’s resources for our daily operations.  Highly recommended for all non-profit organizations!”

~Brendan Sneegas, Director of Outreach & Development

First Call Alcohol / Drug Prevention & Recovery  It is the mission of First Call to reduce firstcall_logo_epsthe impact of alcohol, drugs and addiction by providing quality resources to individuals, families and the community.

“In 2014, First Call Alcohol/Drug Prevention & Recovery applied and became a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity. As a non-profit we believe it is very important to stay transparent to both the people we serve and the people who support our work. The BBB Charity Accreditation process provides a robust look at the work of nonprofit agencies. From financials to governing boards to the services agencies provide, you can find all of the information on their Review Page. With our 60th anniversary coming next year, we feel it is vital to ensure the citizens of the Kansas City Metro learn about us in as many ways as possible, and the BBB Charity Accreditation is an important part of this mission.”

~Melissa Gard, Administrative & Operations Manager

To view BBB accredited Kansas City charities click here.

Back to our title question, we are hopeful that the comments of our accredited charities have provided answers. And if that’s not enough, here are more reasons why BBB charity accreditation is a cost-effective marketing tool that should not be overlooked.

  • 98% of the public is familiar with the BBB brand
  • Strengthens overall operations
  • Demonstrates commitment to accountability beyond legal requirements
  • Reassures donors that contributions are used effectively
  • Attracts new donors
  • Free of charge

Whether you’re a donor, board member or on staff at a charitable organization, we hope you’ll find reason to be familiar with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and BBB Charity Review.  Go to give.org for more information.

BBB of Kansas City at a Glance

Magnifying GlassAuthor: Dustin Johnson

I wanted to share what the Kansas City BBB has done over the past year. You may not know how much the BBB does to further its mission to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.

Here are the statistics for the last year:

1,021,087 Inquiries
This is the number of times that BBB Business Reviews on local businesses were provided free of charge. The vast majority of business reviews were viewed by consumers through our website.

19,568 Complaints Closed
Number of complaints BBB processed against greater Kansas City and surrounding area businesses.

4,930 Customer Reviews Submitted
Consumers who had a marketplace interaction with a business can share their experience whether positive, negative or somewhere in between and rate it on a 5 star scale. We expect the number of reviews to increase dramatically over the next few years as news of this newer BBB service continues to spread.

49 Advertising Review Cases Closed
BBB routinely monitors advertising within the marketplace and contacts businesses whose advertisements may not meet BBB’s Code of Advertising.

27 Investigations Performed
While BBB does many more simple investigations into businesses, their principal(s) and practices, this is the number of more significant cases where BBB seeks voluntary correction through written correspondence, seeking clarification and/or correction of the practices and/or information that BBB is investigating. BBB also informs the public on their review along with press releases and other media outreach. Additionally, information may be provided to local prosecutors, federal, state or local agencies for potential legal action.

There are a total of 2,547 accredited businesses as of the end of June.

Here’s a breakdown of activity from 7/1/2017 – 6/30/2017:

  • 302 applications for accreditation were vetted and approved by BBB officials and its Board of Directors.
  • 56 applications were denied.
  • 6 Revocations. Businesses who did not maintain BBB’s Standards for Accreditation had their accreditation revoked.
  • 90% Retention Rate. Only those businesses who are meeting BBB accreditation standards are invited to renew their annual commitment to BBB’s Standards for Trust.

We would like to thank our accredited businesses for their commitment to the BBB’s core values and support of services to the public.

Learn about BBB, obtain reviews on businesses and charities, find or report scams, submit complaints/customer reviews, find a BBB Accredited Business and more at www.bbb.org/kansas-city.

Northern Networking: The BBB Presents at Northland Coffee Connect, Hosted at iWerx

Author: Jennifer McGlothen

Northland Coffee Connect Hosted at iWerkxI live in South Kansas City, and while I was familiar with Northland Coffee Connect, I hadn’t made the extra effort to arrive at this 7:45AM networking event north of the river. I had run into Terri S. Turner of TST Marketing & Communications Services some time ago and she mentioned I should check out the event. Then a few months ago, one of our colleagues at the BBB who lives north also mentioned the event. It was time to check it out!

Terri works to manage Northland Coffee Connect so I contacted her to learn more. We scheduled a date for the BBB to share about how we advance trust in the marketplace.

Northland Coffee Connect Hosted at iWerkxThe week prior to the presentation, I decided I would attend to make some new connections and see the iWerx co-working space. I was sorry that I had not made a point to get there long ago! It was a great group of people, great coffee and a great space! The living room arrangement adds such a nice touch.

So, on Wednesday, June 21st, I and two of my colleagues arrived at iWerx bright and early to provide an overview of what the Better Business Bureau does. If you like infographics, here is what that overview looks like:

BBB at a glance

If you like live video snippets, I’ve got those for you also!

Dustin Johnson, Director of Accreditation Services covered some stats and how people use BBB information.
(21 seconds)

Aaron Reese, Manager of Information & Media Services covered advertising review.
(54 seconds)

Northland Coffee ConnectI spoke about our charity review program and how it’s a public service to both charities and donors, but I didn’t video myself! You can check out lots of presentations on Northland Coffee Connect’s Facebook page.

We got good feedback from some attendees and we’re glad that we were able to share details about the varied activities of the BBB. Last but not least, we thank Northland Coffee Connect, iWerx  and their sponsors.

No matter what area of town you live or work, check out Northland Coffee Connect and iWerx!  We know you will find exactly what we found – great people, great coffee and a refreshing space!

Tips For Buying From the Facebook Marketplace.

By Aaron Reese

Facebook MarketplaceThe Facebook Marketplace is steadily growing in popularity. Like Craigslist, it displays a local collection of personal sale classified ads. One reason it’s probably gaining in popularity is that a seller must have a Facebook account. There’s no denying the overwhelming popularity of Facebook. Most people surf the site daily, and it’s awfully convenient to do some shopping while you’re there.

When a seller has a Facebook page, it’s comforting. It helps set a buyer at ease. If the seller’s Facebook page is public, you can see the person’s profile picture. You can look at his or her activity and friends, political rants, friendship quizzes and whatever else they are doing. Craigslist, on the other hand, all but guarantees anonymity with its auto-generated email addresses. It’s easy to see why the Facebook Marketplace might rival Craigslist. It’s a trust thing.

But not so fast.

We already know that Facebook is rife with scams. The BBB issues warnings about them all the time. We also publish articles about plenty of Craigslist scams. Both sites come with their own risks. With the advent of the Facebook Marketplace, we’re seeing a combination of two kinds of scams.

Facebook scams often exploit people’s trust in their Facebook friends list. Scammers will replicate someone’s page, stealing their pictures and sending friend requests to everyone on that person’s friends list. When the scammer gets a few approved friend requests on the fake profile, he’ll start hitting up people in his friends list for money. Sometimes scammers ask to borrow funds for personal reasons. Sometimes scammers tell people that they’ve won a sweepstakes. Sometimes they steer people to scam sites.

Scammers are pulling some of those same tricks to swindle people in the Marketplace. They’re creating fake profiles and claiming to have great deals on merchandise. Scammers are tricky, but you can look for a few red flags that reveal them for what they are.

F-150The deal is too good to be true. You’ll find some great deals in the Marketplace. People will try to get rid of unwanted stuff, but try to recognize when it’s not realistic. For example, I found a 2015 Ford F150, 4-door with chrome running boards on sale for $4,500. That truck is worth $31,000. No one, and I mean no one mind would sell it for so little. The best case scenario is that the seller truly wishes to unload it for so little money…because it’s stolen.

The photos are from the manufacturer’s promotional material. If a seller lists a home entertainment center, they should have pictures of the one they actually own. If they provide a picture with a pristine white background and professional multi-angle lighting, you can safely assume that the seller did not take the picture. You have no way of knowing what the entertainment center looks like, what condition it’s in or if it even really exists

The seller asks you to wire money. Sometimes sellers claim to be out of town. They might tell you that they’ve had other offers, but they’ll do you a favor and hold the item if you wire them some cash. Don’t do this. Ever.

The seller’s Facebook page has no activity. This is a pretty good indication that the profile is new to Facebook and probably fake. If the seller has a private profile, send a friend request so that you can see their history. If you don’t see anything older than a week, don’t buy from them.

You can find more about Facebook scams here and Classified Ad scams here.

If you’ve had experiences with scams in the Facebook Marketplace, let us know. Leave a comment or report it to BBB’s Scamtracker.

The Importance of BBB Customer Reviews

Author: Dustin Johnson

Word of Mouth Just Went Viral!

Online Review StatsYou finish a big job. The customer’s thrilled. Next thing you know, the client’s neighbor wants you to price out some work. Isn’t word-of-mouth a wonderful thing?

Now imagine that same happy customer didn’t just talk to his neighbor but went out and told everyone in town how much he liked your work. Talk about a job well done. Welcome to the wonderful world of online customer reviews. One of the most powerful business development tools available today.

Did You Know?

Did you know that your BBB allows for customers to post reviews about their experiences with businesses, brands and charities whether it be positive, negative or somewhere in between? BBB has always helped consumers with dispute resolution, but for the past few years BBB has also accepted customer reviews.

A BBB customer review is the subjective opinion of a customer who had a marketplace interaction with a business. Customers can share their experience whether it be positive, negative or neutral. The customer is not necessarily seeking any dispute resolution help through BBB, and if he or she is, BBB may recommend to file a complaint instead.

Submit a ReviewBy accepting customer reviews, BBB is able to provide additional information on organizations to help potential customers make educated purchasing decisions. Reviews also allow businesses to demonstrate how they interact with their customers.

In today’s climate, it’s what many consumers are looking for when researching online. Countless potential customers are reading reviews and they’re doing it for almost everything they buy.

Engage Your Customers

Don’t be afraid to ask! Tell customers their feedback and opinions are important to you. If you don’t ask, your chances are much lower in getting a positive review. If a customer has a bad experience they will set out to write a bad review. A customer with a good experience may simply let you know in person, over the phone, or in email within a conversation. This is your time to ask them to share their experience in an online review.

Here are some tips to help you get the right kind of feedback

Ask:  Let customers know you want to hear from them and be responsive and open to their feedback. Tell them that your business is on bbb.org and ask them to write you an online review. You can also solicit reviews after a job is done via an email or even a post card. Be sure to include a URL that directly links them to your BBB Business Profile and/or engage them on Facebook or Twitter with an account for your business.

Save:  Emails and letters with nice customer comments make great testimonials, so keep every one that you get. Do ask for permission before you publish them, and remember to ask if they would submit their review on your BBB Business Profile. For BBB accredited businesses, don’t forget to include your BBB Accreditation Seal to remind customers of your commitment to service.

Share:  Turn customers into advocates. Encourage clients to share a good experience with your business online on Twitter or Facebook.

Follow-up:  If a job went well, but the customer doesn’t leave you a review, contact them again in a few weeks. Politely inquire if they were satisfied with your service. If yes, ask again if they would consider sharing their thoughts online.

Respond:  There’s no reason you can’t respond to a good review by saying thank you publicly. It shows you are listening and people like to be acknowledged. It’s also important to actively monitor your online reputation.

While BBB will contact you when a complaint or customer review has been submitted, get in the habit of searching your business name plus “reviews” to see what comes up. If it’s a negative review, respond timely and professionally. Make an honest effort to resolve the issue but do not continue to engage in a long dialogue online. Try to take it offline and respond more personally via phone or email. As it can be difficult not to take a negative review personally, remember to be professional in your response. Potential customers reading your reviews may consider how you’re responding to them just as important as the reviews themselves.

To learn more about BBB Customer Reviews, including what makes BBB Customer Reviews different from other review sites or to learn about the difference between a customer review and a complaint, visit: https://www.bbb.org/council/reviews/about-bbb-customer-reviews/ or contact your local BBB.