BBB warns of imposters targeting consumers, businesses

The Better Business Bureau system issued a national alert to warn consumers and businesses about two questionable operations that are falsely using the BBB name to trick victims.

One business is perpetrating an advance fee loan scam that targets consumers and businesses with poor credit records. It has provided as a reference fictitious BBB phone numbers that are answered by representatives who falsely claim to be with the Better Business Bureau and provide a positive report on the business in question.

The other entity, which appears to be a telemarketer, is contacting local businesses, falsely stating to be from the BBB and calling about a complaint or to update BBB files. The telemarketer proceeds to ask questions that have nothing to do with BBB business and leaves as a contact number 1-800-CALL-BBB.

“Bureaus across the country are reporting calls from victims. These scammers are falsely using the Better Business Bureau name to try to gain credibility with potential victims,” said Ken Hunter, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Locally, Dennis Horton, director of the BBB’s Regional Office in Rockford, “urges people to double-check with your BBB whenever they receive a dubious phone call or see the BBB name tied to a questionable promotion. Our phone number is (815) 963-2222 or check us on the Web at”

Advance fee loan outfit uses false BBB phone numbers, fake BBB report

Kirkland, Russell and Thomas (KRT), supposedly located in Houston, advertises loans to individuals and businesses. KRT representatives claim that the business is a member of the BBB and suggest that interested customers call fictitious phone numbers for the “Southwestern Division of the BBB in Oklahoma City” and the BBB of Metropolitan Houston to request the company’s BBB report.

The company is using the BBB name as a shill for its business. These are not the phone numbers of the BBBs in Oklahoma City and Houston. And neither Bureau has issued a satisfactory report on KRT. The company has produced and is distributing a fake, glowing BBB reliability report.

According to complaints to the BBB, KRT tells customers that they have been approved for a loan and must send a fee for “insurance.” KRT asks that the fee, often about $2,000, be wired to various addresses in Canada and New York. Consumers are required to submit personal information, such as Social Security number, bank account number and pay stubs.

According to the BBB in Houston, people have not received their loan, nor have they had their money refunded. Consumers in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and other states have been targeted.

BBB staff members have confirmed that there is no business by the name of Kirkland, Russell and Thomas at the company-provided address in Houston. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (the national headquarters) sent a letter to KRT Financial Group regarding BBB trademark infringement and false advertising; it has not received a response.

The BBB advises individuals and businesses not to pay in advance for a loan and to never send personal financial information to unknown businesses.

Shady telemarketer gives

1-800-CALL-BBB phone number

Locally, BBB members in Rochelle, Ill., and others in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Washington have reported that an individual posing as a BBB employee contacted them.

The callers generally claim to be phoning about a BBB complaint or to “update” BBB files. They attempt to solicit information that is not normally required in order to conduct business with or be a member of the BBB. The callers ask for names of various managers (the head of finance or information technology) and the number of workstations at that business location. Businesses have reported that the callers became rude and used threatening language when questioned about the BBB’s need for such information or the nature of the complaint.

The callers leave a 1-800-CALL-BBB (225-5222) as their contact phone number. That phone number, which is NOT owned by the BBB, is constantly busy. Some businesses report that the caller gave the name “Dave Sebastian.” Other names that have been used are Claude, Ashley and Frank.

Businesses need to be aware that any representatives from the BBB would clearly identify themselves and leave a working phone number. The Bureau seeks the voluntary cooperation of businesses to resolve disputes and would not hesitate to provide details concerning a complaint. Dennis Horton, director of the Regional BBB office in Rockford, says, “If you receive a call from anyone representing the BBB and are unsure as to their authenticity, we urge you not to disclose any information and to contact our office immediately.”

The BBB in Colton, Calif., contacted the business listed in several Internet 800 Yellow Page directories as the owner of the 800-CALL-BBB number. It disclaimed any knowledge of the calls or individuals initiating them.

The Chicago/Northern Illinois BBB sends complaints to businesses in writing. BBB staff members are forthright about who filed the complaint and how to reach the Bureau, and are always willing to assist businesses and consumers to amicably resolve disputes that may arise.

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