BBB president says consumers still should be wary of scams

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 30, 2006



LAPLACE – Hurricane Katrina changed life for many individuals and business, and the Better Business Bureau of New Orleans was certainly no stranger to that fact.

BBB President Richard Mitchell spoke to the LaPlace Rotary this week and let them know that the number of problems in the area has skyrocketed since the storm.

&#8220By September of 2006 we had handled over 3,500 complaint calls for this year,” he said. &#8220That is already the same number we handled in all of 2005.”

Obviously, many of the problems are connected to the influx of people showing up after the hurricane.

&#8220There is the group we call the ‘storm chasers’ who arrive in town literally within days of a natural disaster,” he said. &#8220They usually provide inferior work and then you never can find them again.”

One of the problems that is prevalent in this area involves the high rate of termite infestation here.

&#8220You can have people show up at your door and say they want to inspect for termites, then they go in your attic and plant termite evidence that makes it look like you have a problem,” he noted.

Mitchell said that many problems have come from so many people calling numbers from signs posted on telephone poles.

&#8220We had so many new people show up and just stick a sign on a telephone pole,” he said. &#8220That just leads to a lot of problems. You need to always make sure your contractor is state licensed, and then you have a lot better chance of things being done properly.”

He related the storm of one lady who was quoted $1,600 for having four pine trees removed from her house. When the job was done, she was presented a bill for $16,000.

Then there is the moving company that gave a bid, loaded up household goods, then refused to unload and give the furniture back unless the individual paid a higher bill.

&#8220So many problems are because people are just too busy to check things out more carefully,” Mitchell said. &#8220A little bit of time will save you a lot of trouble and money.”

Of course, Mitchell said his organization still deals with some longtime, ongoing scams such as the one called the &#8220Nigerian Letter” scam.

&#8220It was actually called that since the FBI determined that the government in Nigeria was really involved,” he explained, talking about the letter which many have seen asking for help in getting millions of dollars from a deceased person in Nigeria.

&#8220All you have to do is send some money in advance, and then of course, you’re going to get millions of dollars,” he said with a laugh. &#8220But it’s like anything. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

And the bottom line for many seemingly good offers is that anyone asking for your personal identification in advance should be considered off limits.

&#8220You don’t have to give your Social Security number or your checking account number just to win a prize somewhere,” he said. &#8220Most legitimate offers or winning things have no strings attached.”