Originally created 07/19/00

Bureau warns against scams



In its most recent scam alerts, the Better Business Bureau cautions against phone flimflams, phony diplomas through the Internet and buying ads in illegitimate charity publications.

"These are things people need to watch for," local bureau President Jere Bennett said. "These things happen. They go on all the time."

Some of the most common scams are via the phone and come in various forms, he said. If you are not prepared, you might be swindled. Here are a few of them to look out for:

Slamming. This is when your phone service is switched without your consent.

Cramming. This is when you are charged for miscellaneous services that you never agreed to buy. Beware. Sometimes the charges are for phone-related services: voice mail, paging, personal toll-free numbers.

Collect call scams. This is when companies try to charge you for pay-per-call services by masquerading as collect calls.

Calling card fraud. This is when someone steals your calling card number and sells it to someone else. You get charged for calls you never made.

Pay-pe- call abuses: This is when you are charged for calls without full disclosure of the charges.

To avoid these phone scams, look closely when filling out forms. Don't accept collect calls from anyone you don't know. Don't make calls to numbers you don't recognize. Don't agree to anything a telemarketer is selling without written information.

Mr. Bennett said his son once used the family cat's name, Hank, to fill out some forms as a joke. The cat regularly receives offers though the mail. He has become an "official member" of the Chicago Bears fan club and has been pre-approved for a credit card.

Someday, Mr. Bennett said, he hopes the cat receives a mail-order diploma. "That would be something, wouldn't it?" he asked. "I'd love to make him a doctor of divinity."

The Better Business Bureau also cautions against paying for "virtual" diplomas, because many are fake. Legitimate programs are available through the Internet, so stick to well-known university names, the bureau suggests.

Also, don't put ads in charity publications without verifying the organization, the bureau said. Scam artists have been known to send invoices for ads that were never placed.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.