The best way to avoid work-at-home and home business scams is knowing the tricks and deceptions that illicit businesses use. There are resources to help if you think you might have been scammed or you're having a problem with a company. One good option is to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The BBB helps consumers settle disputes related to sales, contracts, customer service, warranties, billings, and refunds every year. It accepts complaints even if the company that's harmed you doesn't belong to the Better Business Bureau.
What Is the Better Business Bureau?
The Better Business Bureau is a private organization with a stated vision to provide "an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other." Its mission is "to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust." The intent is for consumers to have an unbiased resource to guide them.
Membership in the BBB is voluntary, and businesses pay fees for "accreditation" with the organization based on the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) they have. Fees range from $500 annually for one to six FTEs, up to $11,787 a year for businesses with 2,000 or more FTEs.
Accredited businesses must meet a set of ethical standards set by the BBB, which then rates companies based on their record on a scale of A+ to F. The BBB maintains profiles of more than 5.4 million companies as of 2020.
The BBB previously used a numerical scale.
Each BBB office maintains files on businesses headquartered in its service area. Every office in the U.S. and Canada posts its reliability reports on the organization's web at BBB online.
When You File Complaint With the BBB
The Better Business Bureau accepts complaints involving all types of businesses—online, offline, BBB-accredited businesses, and non-BBB-accredited businesses. It also accepts complaints against charities and non-profits.
You're creating a record of your grievance when you file a complaint, so other consumers will know if a business has had previous complaints. They can then make a more informed decision as to whether to trust that business. The BBB tracks the responses from companies so you can use it as a tool to find out if a company has responded to solve the problem.
Just because a company has a record of BBB complaints, this doesn't necessarily mean it's bogus. It can be a red flag, however, that might prevent someone else from jumping in and getting scammed or having a bad experience. The key is to determine the nature of the complaint and the business' response.
What the BBB Won't Do
The BBB isn't a government or law enforcement agency, so it can't enforce the law or force a company to take action.
The BBB does not take complaints regarding matters that are in litigation, or those that involve discrimination or employee/employer disputes. Nor does it accept complaints against government agencies or protests against existing or pending laws.
Tips on Filing a Complaint
The BBB won't process anonymous complaints, so you'll be required to provide your contact information in any complaint you file with them.
Additionally, BBB complaints must include the company's name and enough information to forward the complaint to the company. Finally, the complaint must involve a consumer-to-business or business-to-business transaction that relates to the advertisement or sale of a product or service.
How to Report Work-at-Home Scams to the BBB
The BBB allows you to file a complaint online with just a few easy steps:
- Visit the BBB online
- Search for the company's name, and specifically search for the location where you did business if it's a nationwide business
- Click on the company you want to file the complaint against from the list of results
- Click the link that says "File a Complaint" on the company profile
- You'll be given three options: 1) "File a complaint" 2) "File a review" or 3) "File a scam report"
Choose the "file a complaint" option if you're looking for a refund or another resolution so the BBB can mediate on your behalf. You can file a review and/or scam report if you don't have a good resolution to your complaint.
What to Expect After You File a Complaint
You'll receive an email confirmation after you've successfully filed your complaint with the BBB. It should include information on which BBB office is handling your complaint and provide a link to a PDF file of your complaint for your review. You might receive direct contact from a Dispute Resolution Specialist, who will work with you until the matter is resolved or until the BBB reaches a dead end.
Getting Your Money Back
Having the BBB mediate your complaint can sometimes result in a refund, but the BBB isn't able to force companies to fix the dispute. There are a few other places where you can report a problem that might or might not result in getting your money back.
The best way to get your money back if the company doesn't refund you through its own policy is to file a fraud complaint through your bank or credit card company.
It's always better to do your due diligence and research companies before doing business with them. The Better Business Bureau is a great resource to learn about companies, discover if there are any complaints, and to get help resolving problems.