Friday, February 11, 2011

Can you trust the Better Business Bureau?


Don’t worry. River City is safe,for now; however, a big problem has been uncovered in Los Angeles as reported by Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times, on February 8, 2011.

The article entitled “Head of Local Better Business Bureau Rescinds Resignation” states: “The beleaguered head of the local Better Business Bureau, who resigned in December amid controversy over the group's letter-grade rating system and his high salary, has rescinded his resignation…William Mitchell, who made more than $400,000 in 2008 running the Southern California chapter, had resigned in the middle of an audit of the chapter by the National Council of Better Business Bureaus..”

Bernstein’s article continues “Nationwide, Better Business Bureaus have been embroiled in a scandal over their now-discontinued practice of giving businesses better grades if they became dues-paying members. The system was based on one devised under Mitchell's leadership of the Southern California chapter, where businesses have long complained that heavy-handed recruitment tactics amounted to a system of pay for play. The controversy reached its peak last fall when L.A. business owners critical of the BBB obtained high ratings for fake firms immediately after paying membership dues for them.” The entire article can be found at,0,2836402.story.

So what’s a consumer supposed to do? The Federal Trade Commission web site ( is a great place to start. It provides valuable information as does the Federal Bureau of Investigation web site ( Unfortunately, both sites refer you to the Better Business Bureau. One may wonder why neither agency has publically stated investigations of BBB practices discussed above.

The bottom line is simple. Take responsibility for and be an alert consumer. Provide your own due diligence.

What about third party endorsements? They can be extremely valuable if properly used by the customer. Ex movie stars touting reverse mortgages or Medicare approved diabetes paraphernalia ARE GETTING PAID for the endorsement! Companies providing telephone directories for “approved” vendors are typically nothing more than publications in which anyone may advertise. They can’t be adapted for the “bad apples” until the next year’s publication. And don't forget those Non Profits (NGOs)offering medical and other insurance. They hardly ever offer competitive pricing as they are reimbursed by a single or captured Insurer. Legal, but also resembles pay for play!

Then there is We provide third party endorsements for organizations that provide goods and services to senior citizens. The Businesses and Professionals who participate in the program agree to abide by a code of ethics found on the web site to provide merchandise and service at the high level they would provide their own parents. Members agree to meet with and attempt to resolve misunderstandings.

The site is both business and consumer friendly. Business participants proudly show the Merchant Seal of Approval on their website and know they won’t be dinged for anonymous and unfounded grievances. Consumers know their unresolved legitimate claims will be reviewed and posted in a timely manner.

For information to join and provide that ‘extra effort’ to work with and treat seniors fairly, visit our web site. Questions and comments may be sent to

Regards, Fred Claridge

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seperating You From Your Money

January 20, 2011


It’s no secret senior citizens are prime targets for schemes designed to separate them from their money. Why seniors? Simple, the senior population controls in excess of $16 Trillion and typically own their home, have excellent credit, and are more trusting than the younger generation.

While 60% of frauds are perpetrated against seniors, simple subtraction shows the other 40% is directed at the rest of the population. Kids (those of you under 55); you have a vested interest in Scambusting!

We intend to introduce you to Scams, both legal and illegal, as well as the multitude of frauds lurking ‘out there’. Aside from our website,, you will find excellent information on and

The US Postal Service and all States Attorney General offices provide very meaningful alerts and procedures for reporting illegal activity. Protecting her citizens, both old and young, is an area in which government truly excels!

Representing CSGA (, I am a guest speaker on multiple radio talk shows each week discussing various scams and frauds directed at seniors. Recordings of these shows may be found on the website.

Today, I’m requesting anyone who has been victimized by a scam or fraud within the past 12 months contact us at describing the scam, the result and how you recognized it. We will select the ones we determine to be most prevalent and harmful to the senior population to alert other innocents.

Please submit the most heinous and financially troubling scams. Please remain anonymous; but, include your email address so CSGA may contact you for clarifications and retain the information on file to maintain credibility. CSGA reserves the sole and exclusive right to select which misdeeds will be posted. This is not the forum to complain against an individual or a specific company, nor minor misdeeds such as “I had to wait for 5 minutes for service”, “the coffee was too hot/cold” etc.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One of the growing problems consumers face is the number of sites appearing all over the Internet with such surreal titles as RIP ME OFF.COM; GET EVEN.COM; SCAMS R US.COM; and so on. These sites provide disgruntled consumers a venue to vent frustrations, often not related to the vendor mentioned, and demonize the company of their fancy. These sites are not endorsed by any NGO or governmental organization and they'll post any negative information the poster provides. These sites permit “complaints” to be posted under pseudonyms (an anonymous call sign) without proof or substantiation of many slanderous claims. Even the author of WikiLeaks has substantiated his claims.

The simple solution is to check with legitimate sources that provide the merchant an opportunity to defend their service or business. When referencing a service or business that has derogatory information submitted to one of these “hit” sites, discuss the situation with the vendor. Unfortunately, many times a vendor has no idea of the problem referenced and cannot discuss it as they don’t know the source of the complaint. The other disadvantage is some providers are bound by confidentiality rules and regulations, such as Doctors, Lawyers, Clergy, and Accountants. Nevertheless, if you desire to purchase the product or service, ASK and demand some general discussion of the type of complaint.

There are multiple scams and outright rip-offs with which we all have to contend. Seniors are primary targets as they usually have acquired assets, maintain excellent credit, and are generally more trusting than our younger citizens.

Bottom line: Do your own due diligence. For larger purchases such as homes and automobiles, run the “deal” by your financial advisor, not your local barber or bartender (no slander intended), and/or attorney. Both CPAs and Attorneys are State licensed and have boards with whom to check.

Just as you have to question those who tell you the product or service is better than the discovery of fire; you may also discount some negative and unsubstantiated information posted unless that company has been barred from business or licensing or is listed on a government, BBB, or web site.

Our goal at is to keep you safe from those who want to unfairly separate you from your money.

Stay tuned for further articles designed to protect seniors.

Fred Claridge, A.K.