Thursday, December 19, 2013

BBB Warning: Smart Phone Apps May Share Your Information

Smart phone apps can make life easier, putting dozens of useful tools in the palm of your hand. But BBB is warning consumers to make sure the apps they download don’t take more information than they need to do the job.

In a recent settlement by the Federal Trade Commission, the agency found that a flashlight app’s privacy policy had been deceiving users into sharing their geographic location and device information with advertising networks and other third parties. “Brightest Flashlight Free," developed by Goldenshores Technologies, LLC, is one of the most popular apps on Android mobile devices and has been downloaded more than 10 million times.

However, according to the FTC, the company's privacy policy told consumers that any information collected by the app would be used by the company, and listed some categories of information that it might collect, including geographic location. The privacy policy failed, however, to mention that this private information would be released to third parties. The complaint also involved the company collecting information as soon as users opened the app, even before accepting or refusing the terms of the privacy policy.

Goldenshores Technologies has agreed to settle the FTC charges. The settlement goes on to prohibit the company from misrepresenting how users' information is collected and shared and how much control users have over the way the information is shared. It also requires defendants to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before collecting, using and sharing information.

It’s not always easy to tell if an app is going to collect your information or how it will use it. BBB is urging
smart phone users to:

• Research companies and apps before downloading, including industry publications and user reviews;

• Read the full privacy policy (and, on Android phones, the “Permissions” screen);

• Opt out of location sharing when prompted;

• Periodically check all privacy settings on your smart phone and keep them set as high as you can without altering the functions of your apps (some apps, like maps and compasses, need geo-location information in order to work properly);

• Update your apps when a new version comes out (your phone should alert you); often app updates fix “bugs” from earlier versions;

• Delete apps you no longer use from your phone.

For information on apps for children, check out BBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit.

For more tips you can trust, visit

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How The BBB Helps With Your Internet Marketing & SEO

This blog post was written by Phil Singleton, Founder & CEO of Kansas City Web Design, a Kansas City BBB A+ rated accredited business.

There are so many reasons why businesses should join the BBB.  Most of these are well-known and self-explanatory.  Yet,  BBB Accreditation provides your business with many online benefits that are often overlooked.

The BBB is a highly trusted website.  The search engines know that BBB members go through an extensive vetting process to become accredited.   The information on your BBB Business Review, including the link back to your company’s website, provides search engines with important information about your business.  While a BBB listing is by no means a ‘magic bullet’ that ensures high search engine rankings, it can help to boost your overall Internet marketing efforts and provide other benefits as well.

Here’s why:

1. BBB is a PR8 Website: The major search engines consider to be a ‘high authority’ website.   Google, for example, has a score for websites called PageRank, rated from 0-10 ( is a PR9 website).  Have you ever wondered why some websites appear ahead of yours in search results?  One possibility is that your competitors have more high authority websites linking back to their site.  This is over-simplifying search engine optimization (SEO) because many factors influence your website’s rank – but high quality backlinks are still a very important part. In other words, a link from BBB to your website is a valuable link.

2. BBB Kansas City is a PR5 website:  Local chapters pages of the BBB tend to have a PageRank as well.  The Kansas City BBB has a high page rank in its own right.  Further, the combination of high domain authority with local, highly relevant content makes your link(s) from the BBB valuable.

3.  Your BBB Page Is a Powerful ‘Mini Site’:  The Kansas BBB has strong organic rankings for many types of searches.  If your company takes advantage of all the great features on your BBB profile page, your BBB page can achieve its own organic rankings.  In other words, a prospective Kansas City customer could search for a service and it’s possible that your BBB company page could rank for that search term.

Further, if you have an SEO program in place, your Internet marketing consultant can drive SEO efforts at your BBB page – extend your keyword reach an overall Internet visibility.

4.  BBB Interactive Seals Increase Conversion Rates: A highly visible, accredited BBB seal is extremely helpful for ‘website conversions’.  A website conversion is the action you would like your prospective customers to take at the end of their website visit.  This could be an online sale, a phone call, filling out a contact for or application, etc.  Your website visitors develop a first impression in a fraction of a second.  After that initial impression, your website has another three seconds to convince visitors to stay and read more.  A highly visible BBB seal helps establish credibility and trust immediately, which in turn will help in increase your website’s conversion rate.

5.  High Quality Outbound Links:  Backlinks pointing to your website are just one SEO ranking factor.  Strategically placed outbound links can contribute to your website’s organic search engine rankings.  This is especially helpful when creating blog posts to your website.  When you are writing on a topic and the text or page contains an outbound link to a relevant, quality website, this link is often perceived by search engines to add value to the page or post.  Thus, linking your seal to your BBB profile page, or linking to a BBB page or blog post may contribute to your organic rankings.

In summary, if you are a BBB Accredited Business, be sure to take advantage of the SEO benefits that your membership can bring.  Make sure your profile is up to date and contains your website information.  Add relevant and optimized content to your member page (logo, images, videos, etc.).  Display the BBB seal prominently on your website.  Hyperlink your seal to your BBB company profile page.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Gift Cards

Marlborough, MA - December 13, 2013 - Finding the perfect gift during the holiday season is not an easy task. Gift cards are a hassle-free present that allows the recipient to choose something they really want or need. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern MA, ME, RI and VT (BBB) offers tips on how to choose a gift card that will best suit the both the gifter and recipient.
“When purchasing a gift card, it is important to choose the right one for the recipient,” stated Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the local BBB. “Consumers need to understand the type of gift card they are purchasing, as well as, the fine print and policies associated with it.”
Giving gift cards has been on the rise for years and according to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend roughly $29.8 billion on gift cards this year. The survey also states that gas station, department stores and restaurants are top choices for gift cards. Gift cards are popular for their convenience and the freedom they give to the recipient.
BBB offers the following tips when purchasing a gift card:

· Inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed, and that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.

· Know the rules. Understand the different types of gift cards: retail gift cards, which can only be redeemed at the retailers and restaurants that sell them; and bank gift cards, which carry the logo of a payment card network such as American Express, MasterCard or Visa and can be used wherever the brand is accepted.

· Check it out. Make sure you are buying from a known and trusted source. Always check out a business at Avoid online auction sites, because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.

· Read the fine print before buying. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it is purchased?

· Provide the recipient with back up. Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen. Also, before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a business that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless. If the business closes a store near the recipient, it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.

· Treat the gift card like cash. It’s important to report lost or stolen cards to the issuer immediately. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible, because it’s not unusual to lose or forget about them.

For more advice on finding reputable businesses around the holidays, visit

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to Improve Your Credit Score

Whether you like it or not, the ugly truth is your credit report and credit score have a great deal of power. They serve as key tools that measure the financial risk you pose to lenders. The higher the score, the lower the risk. Credit scores and reports are used to determine whether or not you are approved for a mortgage, loan, or even a bank account and can positively and negatively affect the interest rates on your credit cards and other borrowing methods. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to do what you can now to improve your credit score and resolve any errors on your report. This will prevent this information from haunting the remainder of your financial life.
According to a recent Federal Trade Commission report, more than one-in-four credit reports contain errors. Make sure to check your credit report for errors or potential fraud once each year. You can order a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months by visiting The site is run by the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Keep in mind that this is the only free resource to receive your official credit report. Do not fall for any other company that advertises “free” credit reports because these companies will make you sign up and pay for other services.
After you check out your credit report, the next step to take is to fix any errors. Contact each of the three reporting agencies to report the errors, and begin the process to correct them. This often requires sending in a letter, including your name and address, exactly which items you’d like to dispute and why. Include copies of supporting documentation and a copy of your report with the errors circled or highlighted. Also contact the provider of the incorrect information and have it fixed on their end, so the problem does not reappear in the future. If you still encounter issues, visit The Federal Trade Commission to learn more about your rights when dealing with credit reporting agencies.
It’s always good to be building good credit because this will help you out in the future. Here are some quick and easy tips on how to maintain a good credit score or make some necessary improvements:

  • -Keep track of your bills and make sure to pay them on time.

  • -Do not max out your credit cards. Keep your credit card balances low, and try to limit your purchases to less than 25% of your credit limit at any time, even if you always pay off your bills in full.

  • -Limit the number of credit cards you open, including retail store cards. They may come with great perks, but many cards show lenders that you tend to borrow money at high rates over short periods of time, which signals risky borrowing behavior.

  • -Keep open old cards with a long credit history. They may help your credit score because the length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your score. The higher the average age of your accounts, the more it could improve your score.

  • -Remember to pay traffic or parking tickets or even library fines. If these bills end up at a collection agency, it could drop your credit score by as much as 100 points! Make sure to also keep records of these sorts of payments, in case you need to dispute an error.

For more information, visit BBB’s Managing Credit – Made Simpler. There you will find tips on paying off balances, managing your budget, getting financial help, and protecting yourself from credit fraud.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Western Union and Better Business Bureau Warn of Charity Scams During Giving Season

The holidays bring out the best in people, and many charities count on end-of-year generosity from donors to meet the needs of those less fortunate.   Sadly, scammers know this and prey on unsuspecting consumers who don’t do their homework when giving money to charities.  Scammers solicit by phone and email, or post links to fraudulent charities on social media sites with names similar to those of legitimate organizations.  In some cases, scammers even pose as legitimate charities, in one variation of the so-called imposter scam.

Western Union and Better Business Bureau launched BBB Scam Stopper to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of common scams.  “We urge donors to give thoughtfully, and to be wary of scams this holiday season,” said Art Taylor, President and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “It’s important to check out a charity first, and make sure you are giving to a charity that will use your donation wisely.” BBB’s has reviews of more than 11,000 charities.
Here are tips to consider when giving money to charities:
·         It’s best always to donate to a charity directly after confirming its legitimacy – rather than giving in response to a phone call or by clicking an email link.

·         Never send a money transfer to an individual for a charity.  Western Union does accept donations for charities, but the money transfer must be sent to the organization, not to an individual.

·         Never share banking or credit card information with a person or business you don’t actually know.

·         Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.

“Resist rushing.  If a charity is legitimate, they’ll accept your donation any time,” said Shelley Bernhardt, Director of Consumer Protection at Western Union.

For more information visit or, to test your knowledge of scams, take the Fraud Quiz:

To learn more about which charities meet BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards, go to