Mpowered is Named BBB’s Nonprofit of the Month

BBB serving Denver/Boulder is pleased to congratulate mpowered for being named our May Nonprofit of the Month. Mpowered is the only Colorado-based nonprofit resource for individuals and families in Colorado who want to learn about money management and participate in coaching to achieve their personal definition of financial success.

Established in 2002, mpowered has provided programs to help more than 40,000 people make informed financial decisions.  With offices located throughout the metro Denver, mpowered is a leader in financial education and champions financial stability as one of the most important components of a healthy and less stressful lifestyle.

Mpowered has been a BBB Accredited Charity for 14 years, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. In 2014Mpowered won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Trust in the nonprofit category.

BBB Serving Denver/Boulder charity review program was developed to help donors make informed giving decisions and to promote high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB reviews 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations using the BBB Standards or Charity Accountability. These standards go beyond the requirements of local, state, and federal laws and regulations and cover four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Measuring Effectiveness
  • Finances
  • Fund Raising and Informational Materials

“Mpowered is an incredibly vital resource to those with any type of financial question.  With services that include financial coaching, personal finance classes, debt management and more, mpowered creates a path and map to help clients reach financial liberation. We celebrate their continued hard work in addressing financial education and bringing awareness to financial stability,” says Kim States, BBB Denver/Boulder CEO.

In recognition of the Charity of the Month honor, BBB compiled a short video about mpowered. The video can be found on the BBB Denver/Boulder YouTube page at https://youtu.be/l9n0KZT8OM4

For more information on mpowered, visit http://www.mpoweredcolorado.org/

Mpowered is located at 2009 Wadsworth Blvd, Ste. 100, Lakewood, Colorado, 80214

Spring Break Has Passed, Looking to Stay in Shape for Summer?

You may joined a gym during the winter months to stay warm and in shape, but with the sun shining warmer now, here are some tips for joining a gym or even staying with your current gym membership.

Choosing a gym is a lot like shopping for an apartment: there are a number of features to consider, and you’ll likely find something that meets most of your goals, but not all. Here are a few tips to help you when you’re choosing a fitness club or gym membership.

Mr Potato Head Lifting

Check out new member offers. Many gyms offer introductory specials, discounts, or free months. Be sure you read the fine print, and calculate how much you’re on the hook for paying—monthly or annually— after the special rate ends.

Read the renewal policy. Some gym contracts renew automatically, or a written notice 30 to 60 days before your existing contract expires. Make sure you know how and when you’ll need to approve or cancel a new contract, and add the date to your calendar after you sign up.

Know if there are early termination fees. Many fitness memberships require extra fees if you want to break your contract before your renewal date. Be sure to read these before you choose your gym, so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises.

Take your time to consider your options. Don’t be pressured to choose a membership quickly. A reputable fitness club or gym will give you time to read your contract, and answer any questions you might have.

 

Ecuador Earthquake Donation Tips

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With hundreds killed and thousands injured by the devastating earthquake in Ecuador over the weekend, generous Americans are already seeking ways to support those in need through donations. BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors to avoid being taken advantage of by questionable solicitations or wasting their money on poorly managed relief efforts.

“The news out of Ecuador is heartbreaking,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “People want to help as soon as possible, and that is wonderful, but donors need to follow some key rules about supporting disaster relief so that their gifts get to those who need them most.”

Across the world, relief and development organizations and governments have begun responding to the earthquake in Ecuador. American charities have also begun accepting donations to assist in the region. BBB WGA suggests that before you choose a charity to give to, read this Disaster Relief Donations tip (below) and remember to check out the charity on Give.org.

BBB WGA has a list of nationally soliciting charities that have been accredited by BBB WGA (i.e., meet all 20 BBB Charity Standards), and indicate that they are collecting contributions to assist Ecuador relief efforts. The list, which will be updated as more charities join the efforts, is available at bbb.org/ecuador

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers donors these tips for disaster relief giving:

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Digital Spring Cleaning

Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance urge you to follow this four-week outline and clean up your online life with an easy-to-follow timeline and plan.

Ms Doubtfire

Week 1: Keep Clean Machines

As a very basic first step, make sure that all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones and tablets ‒ are free from malware and infections.

  • Keep all critical software current: Having all software current is one of the best security measures you can take. This includes security software, web browsers, document readers, operating systems and any other software you use regularly.
  • Clean up your mobile life: Most of us have apps we no longer use as well as ones that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current. An added benefit of deleting unused apps is more storage space and longer battery life. Actively manage your location services, Bluetooth, microphone and camera – making sure apps use them appropriately.

Router

Week 2: Make Sure You’re Secure

Building on Week 1, users can enhance the security of their online accounts – a fast and simple way to be safer online. There are quick and easy things you can do that have long-term safety and security benefits.

  • Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication ‒ also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication ‒ on accounts where available.
  • Secure your router: Make sure your router has a strong password and does not broadcast who you are through its name, such as “the Jones Family” or “123 Elm Street”.
  • Make better passwords: Longer passwords  that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
  • Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords ‒ at least for key accounts like email, banking,and social networking ‒ helps to thwart cybercriminals.
  • Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place in your home.
  • Secure your phone: Use a passcode or a finger swipe to unlock your phone.

Delete

Week 3: Digital File Purge and Protection

Tend to your digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files.

  • Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need. Delete or archive what you don’t need and be sure to empty your deleted mail folders.
  • File upkeep: Delete or archive older files such as numerous drafts of the same document and outdated financial statements.
  • Manage subscriptions: Unsubscribe to newsletters, email alerts and updates you no longer read.
  • Dispose of electronics securely: Wiping data isn’t enough. When you dispose of old electronics, look for facilities that shred hard drives, disks and memory cards.
  • Update your online photo album: Back up photos you want to keep, and delete old pictures of yourself and family.
  • Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or to another drive where it can be safely stored. Password protect backup drives and keep them in a different location off the network for maximum security.
  • Empty your trash or recycle bin on all device.

Thumbs up Facebook

Week 4: Clean Up Your Online Reputation

Parents and older kids with social media accounts can take an active role in making sure their online reputation is squeaky clean.

  • Own your online presence: Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to be sure that they remain set to your comfort level for sharing. It’s OK to limit with whom you share information.
  • Clean up your social media presence: Delete old photos and comments that are embarrassing or no longer represent who you are.
  • Update your “online self”: Are your social media sites up to date? Review your personal information and update it where needed.

 

Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence is named BBB’s Nonprofit of the Month

We are pleased to congratulate Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) for being named our April Nonprofit of the Month. SPAN serves the Boulder County and Western Broomfield. SPAN is a human rights organization committed to ending violence against adults, youth and children through support, advocacy, education and community organizing.

Established in 1979, SPAN’s goals for the community include fostering organizational excellence, providing meaningful and effective support and resources to adults, children and youth impacted by interpersonal violence. By implementing violence prevention initiatives, SPAN helps to promote safety, dignity and liberation for all people. Through engagement of individuals, groups, policy makers and the community at large, SPAN’s mission is to unite these groups in efforts that promote economic, racial and social justice.

Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence has been a BBB Accredited Charity for 10 years, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Trust in the nonprofit category in 2014.

BBB Serving Denver/Boulder charity review program was developed to help donors make informed giving decisions and to promote high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB reviews 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations using the BBB Standards or Charity Accountability. These standards go beyond the requirements of local, state, and federal laws and regulations and cover four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Measuring Effectiveness
  • Finances
  • Fund Raising and Informational Materials

“SPAN is an incredibly vital resource to those survivors of domestic violence and to helping prevent cases of domestic violence in our community. Through their continuous programming, support and educational efforts, SPAN helps to provide those survivors with safe, stable and self-sufficient lives. We celebrate their continued hard work in addressing domestic violence and bringing awareness to human rights issues,” says Adriana Carmona, BBB Denver/Boulder Nonprofit Program Director

In recognition of the Charity of the Month honor, BBB compiled a short video about Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence. The video can be found on the BBB Denver/Boulder YouTube page at https://youtu.be/qhJ–MLYV9A

For more information on Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, visit http://www.safehousealliance.org/ , or call the administrative line at 303.449.8623 or the 24-hour crisis line at 303.444.2424. Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence is located at 835 North Street in Boulder, CO 80304.

Tips for Hiring a Professional Contractor so It’s Not a Pinterest Fail

It’s that time of year–the weather is getting nice again, you just received your tax refund, you are itching to bar-b-cue soon…but what’s missing? Oh, the deck, of course! You’ve pinned some ideas, you’ve marked some pages in magazines of the perfect ambiance you want to create for your backyard. We suggest that you do it correct from the start. There are projects that can be done in a weekend and you may not need a professional for, but we have the tips for you to hiring a professional contractor and getting the job done right.

1. Start with a Reliable Source. Use a BBB Accredited Business, visit denver.bbb.org to read customer reviews and check out a business review online for free.
2. Request a Quote. BBB now offers a free Request a Quote feature on our website. Plug in what type of project you are trying to do and we will have 3 BBB Accredited Businesses send you a quote…for free! No hassles, you can choose to accept or not later.
3. License and Insured. Make certain that the company you are considering has proper licensing. State licensing is not required for general contractors; however, a city or county may require specific licensing.
4. Contract and Payment. Obtain a signed contract that clearly states the start and end date for the project, warranty information and all exact costs and times of payment. Avoid paying large amounts upfront and without a signed contract. Make payments in line with the stages of the job, do not complete payment until the whole project is completed.
5. Building Permits and Bonding. Obtain building permits for the work. Un-permitted work can violate local zoning and building codes, and invalidated insurance coverage. Verify that all workers are bonded to protect you from property theft or damage.

The Numbers are In!

Earlier this week, the Council of Better Business Bureau released the top complaint stats of 2015.

The best known BBB services – complaints, investigations, ad review, and mediation – were stable, but BBB saw a big increase in consumers interacting with the organization online:

  • Inquiries, when consumers look up individual businesses, were up 4.3% to an all-time high of 172.8 million.
  • Published Customer Reviews topped 214,000. BBB only publishes Customer Reviews when it can verify that the reviewer is an actual customer of the business; about a third go unpublished.
  • Reports to BBB Scam Tracker, a new service introduced in 2015, topped 13,000 in just a few months. bbb-at-a-galnce-2

The only significant decrease in services was reflected in the category called “General Assistance, Counseling and Industry Information,” which was down by about 10 percent. A large portion of this category is phone calls to local BBB offices.

“This decrease was no surprise,” noted Rubens Pessanha, Director of Market Research and Insights for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “We consumers love our phones but we are using them differently; data and text use go up every year. We talk to our family and friends, but to get information, more of us – especially Millennials – would rather interact online than place a phone call. As the Millennial generation moves into their prime purchasing years, we expect this trend to continue… although you can still reach a helpful person at BBB when you need one.”

BBB saw a huge increase in media coverage, from 151,000 mentions in the top 115 media markets in 2014 to 243,000 mentions in 2015. The announcement of BBB Scam Tracker helped fuel that increase.

 

BBB’s free dispute resolutions services continue to be core to its mission to enhance marketplace trust. In 2015, the top ten industries that received categories were the same as 2014, although the order shifted a bit.

 

Complaint Category (Industry) 2015 Total 2014 Total 2014 Rank Increase/

decrease

         
#1  Cellular Telephone Service & Supplies 35,921 33,199 #1 + 8.2%
#2  Telephone Communications 28,315 29,659 #2 – 4.75%
#3  Auto Dealers – New Cars 26,567 25,568 #4 + 3.82%
#4  Television – Cable, CATV & Satellite 26,111 27,585 #3 -5.34%
#5  Collection Agencies 19,779 21,576 #5 -8.3%
#6  Auto Dealers – Used Cars 16,805 16,571 #6 +1.4%
#7  Furniture – Retail 14,433 12,779 #8 +12.9%
#8  Banks 10,982 11,265 #9 -2.5%
#9  Internet Shopping 10,476 12,936 #7 -19%
#10 Auto Repair & Service 9,653 10,474 #10 -7.8%
         
Total for all Industries 870,246 873,208   -0.34%

The total number of complaints fell by a small fraction (0.3%). As is usually the case, the top complaints are mostly things people have and use every day, such as cell phones, cable TV, cars, banks, and furniture. The biggest change was a 12.9% increase in complaints against furniture retailers.

“The furniture industry saw 5% growth in 2015, so that explains part of the increase,” said Pessanha. “More than half of the complaints to BBB had to do with the products themselves: the quality, delivery, guarantees, and refunds and exchanges. The good news is that the industry has a respectable rate of settling BBB complaints… 85%. That’s better than the overall average of 79% across all industries.”

The biggest decrease in complaints was about Internet shopping, which fell 19%, dropping from #7 to #9 on the list and accounting for nearly the total decrease in all complaints to BBB last year. “We hope this is because online retailers are focusing on good customer service and on-time delivery,” said Pessanha.  “Consumers notice that kind of improvement. This is a trend we would like to see continue in future years.”

The only category in the top ten that is not an everyday consumer purchase is collection agencies, which remained at #5 but saw an 8.3% drop in complaints. “No one who is dealing with a debt collector is happy about it, so it is not a surprise that we see so many complaints,” said Pessanha. “We are pleased to see the significant drop and encourage the industry to keep moving in that direction.”

Although the top industries for complaints are common goods and services that consumers use every day, the top ten industries for inquiries (visits to bbb.org to look up businesses) tend to be infrequent and high-ticket items, particularly those related to home maintenance and automobiles. The full statistical report for both complaints and inquiries can be accessed online at go.bbb.org/2015complaintstats.

 

Don’t Get Fouled When Trying to Attend March Madness Games

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament schedule was announced this past Sunday and official brackets determined. Congratulations to the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes Men’s Basketball team for making it into the tournament!

The Pepsi Center will be hosting the first and second rounds of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest bracket this week. If you are planning to cheer on the Buff’s in Des Moines, Iowa or even attend another game, make sure your March Madness experience does not get fouled.

Most problems lie in transactions with private dealers, mostly on websites like Craigslist and eBay. Ticket seekers in the past have been taken by wire transfer scams and non-delivery of tickets and have been turned away from games because their tickets turned out to be fakes.

BBB offers the following tips to help fans avoid being ripped off:

  • If you buy a ticket outside the event’s website, check for any refund or guarantee policies. Research the ticket site or seller to see if it provides any buyer protections, such as money-back guarantees if tickets are fake or do not arrive on time.
  • Be wary of ticket offers at extreme discount prices – these are generally too good to be true.  Buy at your own risk if you choose to use sites like Craigslist that offer no guarantees or seller identification. NEVER wire funds to strangers to pay for tickets. Try to meet in-person if possible. Always use a credit card for extra protections if the tickets are fake or you do not receive them.
  • The NCAA advises fans to buy from their website, or host schools ticket offices. The NCAA Ticket Exchange is the only 100% guaranteed, NCAA-approved secondary ticket marketplace that allows fans to buy and sell NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tickets with other fans. Ticket holders who are unable to attend a game or find their team eliminated has a place to safely sell their tickets, and buyers can be assured that the tickets are authentic and guaranteed. Visit towww.ncaa.com/tickets.
  • Report any suspected ticket scams to local law enforcement and your BBB so that others can be warned.

Dream Vacation or a Nightmare?

As you dream of summer fun, we are reminding consumers of vacation scams that can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare.

The BBB has tips for avoiding vacation scams:

Don’t believe everything that you see. The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate hotel or booking site, but that can be easily copied from the real website.  Check out the company on bbb.org to see what others are saying.

Get everything in writing.  Before providing any form of payment, get everything in writing. Make sure all verbal agreements are also provided in writing. Review all terms and conditions, taxes and fees, and cancellation policies.

Don’t pay upfront.  Never pay upfront, or with a wire transfer or prepaid debit card for any vacation package or rental. Use a credit card or PayPal in case the charges need to be disputed.

Verify reservations. Follow-up directly with the airline, rental car company, hotel and/or cruise line to confirm arrangements have actually been made to your specifications. It may even be a good idea to search the web for the address of the vacation rental property or, if renting a home or condominium for a week, the place where you will be picking up the keys.  Unfortunately, in some situations, victims of travel scams have discovered that reservations were never made and were provided fake confirmation numbers.

Look out for fake contact info. Some consumers report calling the 1-800 number posted on a scam hotel booking site to confirm its legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the hotel.

Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (brandwebsite.net or brandwebsite.co)

Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with “HTTPS” and has a lock icon.

Watch for too-good-to-be-true deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado Named March Nonprofit of the Month

Congratulations to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado for being named our March BBB Nonprofit of the Month! Currently operating out of offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has helped young people overcome tremendous obstacles to become stable, successful adults.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has been the national leader in youth mentoring since its founding in 1904 in New York City. In Colorado, the history began in 1918 with Claude Blake, chief probation officer in Denver, who watched wartime conditions cause an increase in lawlessness among boys in his community. Recognizing that these boys needed guidance more than critics, Blake established Big Brothers of Denver.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has been a BBB Accredited Charity for 12 years, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado won the BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Trust in the nonprofit category in 2013.

BBB Serving Denver/Boulder charity review program was developed to help donors make informed giving decisions and to promote high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. BBB reviews 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations using the BBB Standards or Charity Accountability. These standards go beyond the requirements of local, state, and federal laws and regulations and cover four areas:

  • Governance and Oversight
  • Measuring Effectiveness
  • Finances
  • Fund Raising and Informational Materials

“Through their continued mission of providing youth with mentoring relationships to help them to improve their sense of self, form positive relationships and achieve educational success, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is a shining example of a nonprofit that is truly impacting the future of our community and the generations to come,” says Adriana Carmona, BBB Denver/Boulder Nonprofit Program Director

In recognition of the Charity of the Month honor, BBB compiled a short video about Big Brother Big Sisters of Colorado. The video can be found on the BBB Denver/Boulder YouTube page at https://youtu.be/7GwJaTT74MQ.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, visit http://www.biglittlecolorado.org/ or call 303.433.6002. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is located at 1391 Speer Blvd Ste 450 in Denver, CO 80204.