Entries in Better Business Bureau (4)


Better Business Bureau Gives Itself an 'F' in Los Angeles

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Better Business Bureau has expelled its Southern California chapter in the wake of an ABC News investigation into allegations of a "pay to play" culture in which higher ratings were awarded to businesses that paid for membership status.

"They did not meet our standards, it resulted in expulsion," said Carrie Hurt, the Better Business Bureau president and CEO.

Among the allegations, an ABC News report in 2010 found the Southern California chapter had given an "A-" rating to a phony business naming itself as the Hamas terror group.  The listing had been registered by an anonymous blogger who paid a $425 membership fee.

"They ran the credit card," said the blogger, "and within twelve hours [Hamas was] an approved, accredited member."

Other business owners, including celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who has regularly appeared on ABC News programs, said they were told they had to pay in order to get an "A" grade.

"If you don't pay, it's very difficult to get an A," Puck said after receiving an "F" rating for one part of his food empire.

The story was "painful but true," said Hurt.

She said the corporation that runs the California chapter "no longer has the right to use the Better Business Bureau name, our logo, or any of our trademarks."

In a letter dated March 8 to the national office, Jerry Dominguez, the chairman of the board of directors of the Southern California chapter, the largest in the country, admitted the Hamas "A-" grade was a mistake, but disputed the allegations of widespread problems and said the chapter had resigned before it could be expelled because of the "absurd proposed terms" the national office wanted to impose on the selection of its executives.

"Frankly, we're disgusted with the actions of Council and we find resignation to be not just the only, but the best, course of action for us," Dominguez wrote.

Founded 100 years ago, the Better Business Bureau had enjoyed a sterling reputation as a consumer watchdog group until the ABC News report and complaints from business owners.

Hurt said she was eager to dispel the belief that there was a "pay to play" culture throughout the organization.

"Our ratings are not for sale," she said.  "Our standards are not for sale."

Hurt says the BBB is looking to partner with a new organization in Southern California but insists consumers can still find help through the organization's website.

"There will not be a local entity there immediately.  We'll be working for that long-term.  But the services will absolutely be there," she says.

The group that made up the now-former BBB in Southern California is continuing operations under a new name, Business Consumer Alliance.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Connecticut Shooting: Scammers Trying To Profit from Sandy Hook Tragedy

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Scammers may be looking to cash in on the public's generosity following the Sandy Hook massacre, the Better Business Bureau warned.

"It is a challenge to be on guard because public sympathy and emotions are running high," said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a group that helps charitable donors make informed decisions.

Weiner said it's difficult for scams to be detected in the first week following every national tragedy, however he suspects unscrupulous people are already out there, eager to cash in on the massacre.

How to Help Newtown Families:

False websites or phone calls soliciting help for the victims' families are two of the easiest and most common scams Weiner said he sees.

"They're hard to identify because people don't know they've been taken and they're not going to know until down the road," he said.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, countless Facebook pages for the victims, listings on crowdfunding sites and community drives have been established to solicit donations.

While many of them may be legitimate, Weiner warns people to do their research.

"You really have to be watching out for newly created things. There may be some well-intended effort, but you have no way to look at their track record," he said. "I can tell you from experience there are some cautions associated with it."

Any fundraising effort that makes vague statements, such as "we're going to help the victims and families," is another red flag to watch out for, Weiner said.

Whether it's fundraising for the Aurora theater victims or a local terminally ill child, Weiner said the BBB sees these kinds of scams "time and time again" and actively investigates them.

"It is a challenge to be on guard after a tragedy," he said. "But you shouldn't give to any organization without checking them out first."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top Five Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

Ryan McVay/Thoinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the holidays approach, many scam artists will be ramping up efforts to tap into your wallet.  

To better prepare consumers, the Better Business Bureau has created a list of the top five scams to be on the lookout for, along with some advice on how to avoid them.

"This is where we see the scams and con artists will take advantage of the giving spirit," said Carrie Hurt, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

1. Puppy Scams

What better holiday gift for your family than a new puppy under the tree?  The Internet is loaded with pictures of adorable puppies from "breeders" who are more than happy to arrange to ship your new best friend just in time for Christmas.  You wire them the money for the puppy and the airfare, they send you the flight information and you wait at the airport.  But there's no puppy, no one returns your calls and your money is gone.

2. Relationship Scams

Your grandson calls from Mexico to say he's been arrested while traveling and needs bail money wired to him.  Or you get an email from your best friend saying she was mugged traveling in Europe and needs money to pay her hotel bill.  Or you meet someone online and develop a long-distance romance, then he asks you for money or asks you to pick up a wire transfer for him.  All these relationship scams have two things in common: The scam artist gets close to you by pretending to be someone he or she's not, and they ask you to wire money, which is nearly impossible to recover.

3. Counterfeit Goods

Whether from a city street vendor, a deceptive website or the trunk of an acquaintance's car, it's pretty easy to pass off counterfeit goods, especially to those who can't resist a supposedly great deal.  Counterfeit goods are usually shoddy and poorly made.  In the case of electronics, they may not work for long, or at all.  And not only are you getting ripped off, you are stealing the intellectual property of the person or company that designed the real thing.

4. Gift Card Scam

If you get an email, text message or social media post saying you've won a gift card to Target, Walmart, Best Buy or another popular retailer, just hit the delete button.  Those contests are nothing more than scams to get you to reveal personal information -- information that can be used to steal your identity and drain your bank account.  Never share identifying information with someone who contacts you first.

5. Charity Scams

Charities are busy in December; that's when they raise a huge percentage of their funds from those who celebrate the season by sharing with those less fortunate and from those looking for one last tax deduction before the end of the year.  Be on the lookout for phony charities that sound and look like the real thing.  Websites are easy to fake and might even include real photos and heartwarming stories.  Don't reply directly to a solicitation you receive via email or social media; it could be a scam to get your bank or credit card information.  Go to to check out the charity first.

"It's so important for consumers to do their homework on the front end," Hurt said.  "Make sure you're doing business with a legitimate company.  Make sure that the individual you're dealing with is reputable."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


10 Tips for Selling Your Gold for Cash

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In today's swerving economy, stocks are out, and gold is in.

The price of gold is up 20 percent since the beginning of 2011, and by mid-August gold was going for over $1,700 per ounce. At times on Monday, its spot price hovered near $1,900 per ounce.

So how do you cash in? If you're like thousands of Americans, you go to a gold party, the hottest trend on the block, where you can have your jewelry appraised and get paid cash on the spot.

But not so fast. With every good deal comes a case of buyer's and, in this case, seller's beware, a reminder that consumers should do their homework before selling their jewelry at gold parties or in a local jewelry store.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers that while gold parties may be a fun and convenient way to make some cash, they may not provide you the best deal.

Follow these tips from BBB to make sure you're getting the best value for your gold.

1: Understand the Scales:  The weight of gold helps determine its value, but keep in mind that jewelers use a different measurement standard called a Troy ounce. U.S. scales will measure 28 grams per ounce, while gold is measured at 31.1 grams per Troy ounce. Some dealers may also use a system of weights called pennyweight (dwt) to measure a Troy ounce, while others will use grams. A pennyweight is the equivalent of 1.555 grams. Be alert that a dealer does not weigh your gold by pennyweight but pay you by the gram, a sneaky way for the dealer to pay you less for more weight of gold.

2: Know Your Karats: Pure gold is too soft to be practically used so it is combined with other metals to create durability and color. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that all jewelry sold in the U.S. describe a karat fineness of the alloy. One karat equals 1/24 of pure gold by weight. So 14 karats would mean the jewelry was 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. It is illegal for jewelry to be labeled "gold jewelry" if it is less than 10 karats. It is important to know the karats of your gold to make an informed decision on the scrap value of your jewelry.

3: Keep Your Karats Separate:  Don't let jewelry of different karat value be weighed together. Some dealers will weigh all jewelry together and pay you for the lowest karat value. Separate your jewelry by karat value before attending a gold party.

4: Know the Value:  Call a local jewelry store or check with an online source, such as, to verify the current market price for gold before you sell. Some dealers know people are just looking for quick cash to put in their pockets and will offer you money for your gold that is lower than the actual value.

5: Know Your Buyer:  Check out jewelry stores and gold buyers registered with BBB at A BBB Business Review tells basic information about the business as well as any complaints and whether the complaints have been resolved when presented to the business by BBB.

6: Know What You Are Selling:  Some gold items may be worth more when sold as they are, rather than if they are melted down. If your gold necklace or bracelet comes from a well-known designer or maker, it may have a value to some buyers beyond the gold it's made of.

7: Know the Fine Print:  If you choose to use a mail-away service, make sure you understand the terms and conditions. Send the items insured. Find out how long before you get reimbursed, how long they will keep your gold before melting it down, and how many days you have to turn down the offer. Take photos of your items before sending and make sure you hold on to all relevant paperwork and filings.

8: Shop Around:  Remember, you don't have to jump at the first offer for your gold. Shop around for a few different bids. To ensure you are really getting the best price for your jewelry, have it appraised before selling. This may cost you more up front, but your jewelry may be worth more than its weight when you include workmanship, artistic value, and embedded gems for the piece as a whole.

9: Be Realistic:  Keep in mind that gold parties, often hosted by friends and neighbors, are really more about fun than value. Taking all factors into consideration, sellers at gold parties will likely get between 70 and 80 percent of the real value of their item.

10: Bring Your I.D.:  Gold buyers are required by law to ask sellers for government-issued identification. This requirement is designed to protect consumers by helping police investigate the sale of stolen property and prevent money laundering. All reputable gold buyers comply with these rules, so if you don't get asked to show your I.D., be warned.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio