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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
The Better Business Bureau has advice on several scenarios shoppers may run into this holiday season.
With only a few weeks left to get holiday cards and gifts sent to loved ones, phishing scams are posing as holiday shipping and mailing services. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be on the lookout for two phishing scams this holiday season.
Hackers and scammers are pretending to be customer service personnel from some of the biggest names in business—including FedEx and UPS. Hackers are impersonating well-known companies in order to gain access to your computer drives, files and accounts to steal your personal information including Social Security, bank or credit card numbers.
The BBB has the following advice:
• Shipping scams - Hackers send phishing e-mails from "shipping companies" claiming that there is a problem with delivery of merchandise. Commonly, the e-mail will include a hyperlink for recipients to click on that will take them to another Website that might install malware or solicit personal information. E-mail messages may have subject lines like:, "Subject: Tracking Number 13040065504." The body of the message claims that a package could not be delivered and advises the recipient, "to print the copy of the invoice that is in the added file." The attachment is actually a virus that will infect the computer.
BBB Advice: Instead of clicking on the link in the e-mail, go directly to the shipper's website or contact the company via telephone to confirm whether there is a shipping problem with your package. Do not open attachments to unsolicited e-mails.
• E-card scams - E-cards are a popular and inexpensive way to deliver season's greetings to loved ones. With legitimate e-cards, the recipient receives an e-mail with a hyperlink that will take the user to the e-card which is housed on a website. Unfortunately, by design, e-cards are an easy way for hackers to disguise phishing e-mails and direct you to their websites which will install viruses and malware on your computer. You should be careful about clicking on a link in an e-card as the hackers will often use logos from recognized brands and companies in order to appear legitimate.
BBB advice: Phishing e-mails posing as e-cards can be difficult to spot. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are a huge red flag. Also, do not follow the link in an e-card if you do not recognize the name of the sender. Consumers who receive suspicious e-mails should report them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
SCAM ELECTRONICS WEBSITES:
This holiday season, everyone will be looking for the best deals. The Better Business Bureau warns shoppers that some deals online for electronics are too good to be true.
Because of the economy, some retailers will make deep price cuts, particularly on electronics, to lure in shoppers.
Unfortunately, not all websites promising rock bottom discounts on electronics are legitimate and consumers need to do their research when shopping for electronics online.
The BBB advises you to look for these five red flags to spot scam electronics sites:
1) Prices are too good to be true. Everyone is looking for a bargain on electronics and scammers use tantalizingly low prices to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, walk away.
2) Spelling and grammar. Many phony electronics websites are created by scammers overseas and you can spot them because they usually contain spelling and grammar mistakes.
3) Payment via wire transfer only. Scammers often ask victims to wire payment through Western Union or MoneyGram because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. The BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for electronics online. If the website turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card and you may get your money back.
4) Bad BBB rating. You should always review the business's BBB report online.
5) Fraudulent security seals. Scam websites will often display the seals from certification organizations such as VeriSign, IQNet or TRUSTe without authorization or falsely claim to be accredited by the BBB. When shopping online, you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business's use of the seal is legitimate. You can typically do this by clicking on the seal which, if legitimate, will link you to a confirmation page on the certifying organization's site.
AVOIDING RECALLED TOYS:
The toy industry spends an estimated $300 million a year on safety testing and inspection of toys, and approximately three billion toys are sold in America each year issued last year.
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), less than 20 percent of recalled toys make it back to the manufacturer for proper disposal or repair.
"The hot topic this holiday season for many parents and relatives of children is a trust issue – ‘which brands and what toys can I trust?'" said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "There is plenty of reliable information available about toy recalls, and the BBB urges everyone who will be giving or donating toys this year to take a few minutes and become a safe toy shopper."
If your gift list has toys on it, the BBB has the following advice to ensure that the toys you give are safe:
• Find out which toys have been recalled - The CPSC keeps a list of recalled toys on their Website at www.cpsc.gov. The Toy Industry Association also provides extensive information on toy safety and you can scroll through photos of recalled toys in an easy-to-use index on their website.
• What to do if you have purchased a recalled toy - The CPSC negotiates the specific resolution over a recalled toy with the toy manufacturer – usually resulting in a refund or an exchange for a different toy. Check with the CPSC for the specific resolutions for the recalled toy you've purchased. If you purchased the toy from a retailer, try returning the item to them first to potentially save yourself the time it will take to deal directly with the toy manufacturer. Major toy outlets often have their own return policy for recalled toys.
• Be careful when shopping online - Most large stores are quick to pull recalled products off the shelf, and, as a secondary precaution, flag the bar codes so if the item is scanned at checkout the cashier knows to not let you purchase the item. While online auction sites or bulletin boards may have policies against selling recalled toys, according to researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Hospital, recalled toys and other unsafe products are often being sold to unknowing parents. It's very important to check with the CPSC and the Toy Industry Association before buying a new or used toy or product for children online.
Toy Recall Hotlines • Consumer Products Safety Commission: (800) 638-2772 • Toy Industry Association: (888) 888-4TOYS • Mattel: (800) 916-4498 • Fisher-Price: (800) 991-2444 • Toys R Us: (800) 869-7787
GIFT CARDS, WARRANTIES, PRODUCT ORDERS: WHAT IF THE STORE GOES OUT OF BUSINESS?
The holiday shopping season is upon us and it could make or break many major retailers. With more retailers closing stores, or going out of business completely, consumers are confused about what will happen to their outstanding product orders, unused gift cards and extended warranties.
When a retailer files for bankruptcy, there are two primary options - Chapter 11 or Chapter 7. Chapter 11 means the company intends to reorganize and continue to do business as usual. However, Chapter 7 means the company will close and liquidate any assets in order to pay creditors.
If a business intends to continue operations under Chapter 11, it will often still redeem gift cards, fulfill services and deliver on goods. Some Chapter 11 bankruptcies, however, quickly turn into Chapter 7 and then the chances for the consumer to receive any compensation are greatly diminished.
The BBB has the following advice for consumers if a retailer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
• Product Orders - Bankruptcy law is specific regarding who will benefit first in the case of a retailer's liquidation. Unfortunately, customers are at the end of the line. Typically, the money gained from selling the company's assets goes to paying back secured creditors, as well as any employee wages. Whatever is left over is divvied up among customers who have outstanding claims for goods and services.
Customers who paid with credit cards may be able to dispute the charge with the credit card company and get their money back. For this reason, the BBB highly recommends that consumers pay with credit cards, instead of cash, checks or debit cards. Customers who paid by cash, check or debit card will need to file a claim with the bankruptcy court administering the process—the deadline is typically 90 days after the bankruptcy filing date.
• Warranties - The validity of any outstanding warranties varies for each bankruptcy. If a retailer goes out of business, the consumer may be able to rely on the manufacturer's warranty. If a manufacturer goes out of business, the consumer may be able to rely on any warranties provided by the retailer. Many extended warranties and service plans are provided and administered by third parties and are typically not affected by a retailer or manufacturer going bust.
• Gift Cards - In cases of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, courts will decide if the business must honor gift cards or certificates. If the business has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the gift card holder must file a claim. In some cases, consumers might actually get at least part of the value of the gift card back. The BBB advises consumers to redeem gift cards as soon as they are received to avoid possible problems down the road with the retailer's solvency.
HASSLE-FREE GIFT RETURNS AND EXCHANGES:
According to the National Retail Federation, one in three consumers (38 percent) are expected to return at least some portion of their holiday gifts. If you are buying gifts during the great sales leading up to Christmas, you need to keep the recipient in mind.
"The ‘return clock' starts ticking the day you buy the gift," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy, "not the day you give the gift."
The same survey from the National Retail Foundation, indicated that nearly three in ten (29 percent) consumers don't carefully read return and exchange policies when making a purchase in a store or online.
"Not every retailer has the same return policy and some businesses even implement separate policies around special sales and holidays," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "We encourage you to carefully read and make sure you understand all policies that come with your purchases."
The BBB has the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges:
• Keep your receipts. If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. This will facilitate returning the gift.
• Read the retailer's return policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise.
• Monitor the ‘return clock'. Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame and that time frame usually begins when the item is purchased, not when it is given.
• Understand return policies for sale merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.
• Don't remove electronics from their boxes. Some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging.
• Ask about ‘restocking fees'. Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.
• Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store instead of the online merchant.