DEAR ABBY: Please do your readers a service by cautioning them to phone the Better Business Bureau whenever they receive a "great" offer they are considering accepting.
I received a notice from a legitimate-sounding credit card company ("member of FDIC") in Scottsdale, Ariz., saying that I was "pre-approved" for a secured credit card. They asked that I send a check for $99, and they would issue a credit card with a limit of $500. That was exciting because my finances are in a state of disarray. I don't get many of these kinds of offers.
I phoned the credit card company and asked how long it would take to receive the new card. The response was "six weeks." That seemed rather long, and my intuition told me to phone the Better Business Bureau in Scottsdale. I was informed the bureau has a file with pages and pages of complaints against this company.
Please inform your readers that a phone call to the BBB may not only save them money, but prevent grief and a great deal of wasted time as well. -- A FRIEND IN FLORIDA
DEAR FRIEND: Better Business Bureaus are located in most major cities in the United States. They were one of the first consumer "watchdog" organizations. The bureaus provide consumer education materials, answer questions, provide information about businesses -- i.e. whether there are unanswered or unsettled complaints or other marketplace problems -- and help resolve buyer/seller complaints against a business, including mediation and arbitration services. They also have information about charities and other organizations seeking public donations.
BBBs that provide information via 1-900 telephone numbers charge a nominal fee for their services; some offices charge a flat fee and require a major credit card to access information. The BBB Web site can be accessed at www.bbb.org for consumer fraud and scam alerts, and information about BBB programs, services and locations.