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Tag Archive | "Better Business Bureau"

Beware of storm chasers


From the Better Business Bureau

The recent damage done by the flooding and heavy rains through West Michigan brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized.

As a follow up, your Better Business Bureau is warning local residents affected by the recent flooding to beware of out-of-town and under-qualified repair companies soliciting business.

“It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers to solicit business after storms like the ones we had last week,” said Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau. “Storm chasers may not have proper licensure and may offer quick fixes or make big promises which they won’t deliver.”

Your BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:

Know your rights and responsibilities http://www.michigan.gov/mshda/.

Contractors must be registered with the State of Michigan. Call (517) 241-9288 or check them online at https://www2.dleg.state.mi.us/ to determine if a contractor is registered.

Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.

Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront.

Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.

Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.

Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.

Many cities and townships require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Verify that they need to have a permit by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.

While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof or basement. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.

Get a written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.

BBB is also warning area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use a local business’s established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business

We have seen this happen in other areas of the country. After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors left the area. Many contractors who agreed to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they were left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses visit www.bbb.org or call (616) 774-8236.

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New president at West Michigan BBB


The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan is pleased to welcome new President/CEO Phil Catlett.
Catlett served as Vice-President and General Manager of area radio stations for more than 20 years, and recently has worked with public media development projects.  Phil is excited to be joining the BBB and said, “I am honored to be working with the BBB team, and continuing to grow the vital role of business-consumer trust in west Michigan.”
Nick Hrnyak, BBB Board Chairman, said the search process involved regional and national candidates for the new CEO position.  Search committee members received positive feedback about the impact of the BBB in Western Michigan.  “We interviewed many highly qualified candidates, and we were impressed by the respect and impact the BBB has earned in Western Michigan.”  The non-profit BBB was started locally in 1937 and will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2012 when the national BBB organization celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Ken Vander Meeden, retiring as the President/CEO of the organization he has led since 1992, stated, “It has been my distinct pleasure for 19 years to serve within the BBB system. Having spoken in every one of our 38 counties has reinforced the idea that west Michigan businesses and charities care about right and wrong, fair play, and integrity issues. The organization is in transition and Phil Catlett will be a great addition to our experienced staff and to the future program developments needed to continue our growth in all areas of the region.”
The BBB of Western Michigan serves a population area of nearly 3.5 million people in 38 counties, advancing marketplace standards where buyers and sellers can trust each other.  In addition to dispute resolution, reviewing truth-in-advertising problems, and charity evaluations, the BBB encourages and promotes ethical business practices as a neutral third party.

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Citizens concerned about lengthy Census Form


American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau is safe and response is required by law

The Better Business Bureau has received calls from concerned people across the country who received a Census form in the mail that asked personal questions involving their income range and employment situation. The BBB advises consumers that, while most will receive a short 10-question 2010 Census survey form, they should not be alarmed if they are chosen to respond to the 69-question American Community Survey (ACS) as well.

The 2010 Census form has 10 questions covering basic information while the ACS has 69 questions on topics such as income, household expenses, employment, education, and work commutes. Some individuals who received the ACS in addition to the 10-question form contacted their BBB over concerns that the form was actually the work of scammers.

“Everyone in the country has been prepped to expect the simple 10-question survey in their mailbox and red flags automatically go up when they receive the longer and more personal American Community Survey,” said Ken Vander Meeden, BBB of Western Michigan CEO.  “While the questions in the ACS might seem invasive, especially when compared to the 10-question form, responding to the survey is safe, important and required by law.”

The BBB reminds consumers that the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census will never ask for donations or bank account, Social Security or credit card numbers. The Census Bureau may contact you by mail or phone, but will not send you unsolicited e-mails requesting sensitive personal information.

The following are a few answers to frequently asked questions to the BBB about the American Community Survey:

How many addresses receive the ACS? The ACS is sent to a random sample of approximately 3 million addresses per year, or approximately 250,000 each month of the year. This means that approximately 2.5 percent of the population will receive the ACS in any given year.

If I received both the 10-question survey and ACS do I need to respond to both? If you receive both the 10-question form and the ACS, you are required by law to respond to both.

The questions seem to get personal, are my answers safe? Responding to the ACS is safe and your personal information will not be shared with anyone, including other government agencies.

Why does the federal government need to ask me so many questions? In addition to needing population counts, communities need data about the well being of children, families, and the elderly to provide services to them. The information you provide on the ACS not only helps your community get its fair share of federal funds, but also to establish goals, identify problems and solutions, and measure the performance of programs.

I received a survey from the federal government, but it isn’t the ACS or the 2010 survey. Is it legit? At any point in time the US Census Bureau distributes a number of different surveys to the American public and the topics and length vary. Before responding to a survey you received in the mail that claims to be with the Census Bureau, do your research on the Census Bureau’s Web site (“Are you in a survey?” Link) at www.census.gov/survey_participants/.

Who do I contact if I have questions or could use help filling out the ACS?  If you need help completing your American Community Survey questionnaire or have other questions about the American Community Survey, please call 1-800-354-7271 for an English-speaking operator. If you prefer a Spanish-speaking operator, call 1-877-833-5625.

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Free on-site document shredding and identity theft prevention tips


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and its national partners, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the National Association for Information Destruction invite the west Michigan community to the BBB “Secure Your ID” Day Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Northview High School, 4451 Hunsberger Drive NE, Grand Rapids.

Residents and small businesses are encouraged to attend the event and take a key step in identity protection by shredding and properly disposing of their sensitive paper documents as well as CDs and floppy discs.  BBB staff will also be on-site to provide expert advice and tips for identity theft protection.

“Properly destroying documents that carry information you don’t want getting into the hands of crooks is an important first step to fighting identity theft, but it doesn’t end there,” said Ken Vander Meeden, BBB of Western Michigan CEO. “That’s why BBB staff will also be on hand offering important advice and simple steps everyone can take to prevent ID theft in their daily lives, both online and off.”

Last year alone, 8.1 million Americans became victims of ID theft, resulting in the loss of $45 billion, according to a 2008 report from Javelin Strategy and Research. The report notes that the majority (56 percent) of ID theft occurs when the thief has direct contact with the victim’s personal information, through a stolen or lost wallet, rifling through a personal mailbox or trashcan, or even lifting documents from inside a home or business.

Bring your documents to be shredded and take home the tips and resources you need to help protect yourself. Documents to be shredded should be removed from binders, but staples, paper clips, CDs and floppy discs are okay to be shredded.

As the result of two nationwide Secure Your ID Days in 2008 alone, the BBB helped individuals and small businesses at more than 83 sites across the country shred 1.2 million pounds of sensitive documents – all for free.  For more information on the BBB “Secure Your ID Day” and identity theft prevention measures for both consumers and businesses, visit:  www.westernmichigan.bbb.org.

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