Going on vacation? What are you going to do with your pets?

As families gear up for their summer vacation, our friends at the Better Business Bureau Serving E. MA, ME, RI & VT offers advice for pet owners looking for a safe place to house their furry friend.

Last year, consumers inquired to BBB about pet boarding and kennels over 153,800 times. Many consumers also filed complaints about boarding facilities, some that alleged problems with billing, as well as concerns about the treatment of their pet.

“When I look for a boarding kennel for my puppy, I look for one that gives her quality care as well as peace of mind for me while I’m away,” said Paula Fleming, Vice President of the BBB Serving E. MA, ME, RI & VT. “I try to always plan ahead and do my homework to find a kennel that will provide my pet with the care she deserves.”

pupy falling over

BBB recommends the following tips as a guide to finding a trustworthy kennel this summer:

Plan ahead to make sure you get your first choice. You’ll probably need to make a reservation well in advance, especially if you want to board your pet during holidays or popular vacation times.

Ask for recommendations. Turn to friends and family members who own animals or who your veterinarian recommendations. Check with BBB for Accredited kennels listed on our Accredited Business Directory. Make sure to check out their BBB Business Review before making a final decision.

Personally visit the facilities. Check for cleanliness and note the overall safety of the kennel and cages. Ask to see all of the places your pet may be taken. If your pet is prone to running away, ask about steps the kennel takes to make the facility secure.

Ask about interactions between animals. Some kennels let animals play together while others keep them separate at all times. Make sure the facility requires that all entering pets have proof of immunization. Also ask about its policies regarding flea and tick control.

Take notice of the staff. Ask about the background and experience of company staff and take a few moments to see how they interact with the other pets that are being boarded.

Ask if you can bring food or toys. Bringing your pet’s own food to a kennel may reduce the chance of diarrhea or upset stomach. Also check to see if the kennel allows you to bring any special toys, blankets, treats, or bedding for your pet.

Thoroughly read the boarding agreement. Verify it includes the feeding and exercise schedule as well as pick up and drop off hours. Some facilities offer bathing, nail trimming and immunization as additional services. Make sure these and any other additional fees, like medical emergencies or other care, are included in the agreement.

Have a backup plan. Make sure you have a local friend, family member or veterinarian you can trust in case of emergencies.

Helpful Resources to Enhance Safe Driving By Your Employees

Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. And, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. The type of company or job doesn’t matter; the risk is there. Protect your organization’s most valuable asset — your employees — by promoting safe driving practices. The following 10 safe driving practices can significantly reduce the risks faced by workers when they drive on the job.

Kramer Driving

1. Inspect the vehicle. Check the lights, gauges, brakes, horn, tires, windshield wipers, fluids, belts and mirrors.

2. Secure cargo such as tools and other equipment.

3. Buckle up. A seatbelt reduces risk of death by 45 percent in cars and by 60 percent in light trucks.

4. Drive defensively.

5. Avoid distractions. Put down the cell phone and do not text.

6. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds while driving.

7. Avoid impairment.

8. Avoid aggressive driving.

9. Maintain a safe distance between moving vehicles and slow down during inclement weather.

10.Take security measures. Carry vehicle information at all times, secure the vehicle and avoid parking lots with poor lighting or sightlines.

 

Pinnacol Resources

Visit Pinnacol’s Safety Services page on defensive driving. The many resources on this webpage for policyholders include a sample driving and traffic violation policy, defensive driving quizzes, a vehicle safety checklist, a seatbelt safety poster, a short defensive driving video and additional tools and tips to enhance the motor vehicle safety of your employees. Also, call Pinnacol’s Safety On Call hotline at 303-361-4700 or 888-501- 4752. Our Safety Services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your workers safe behind the wheel

Post Provided by: Pinnacol Assurance

8 Tips for Improving Your Small Business Website

Website management professional, Michael Vaughn from Artemesia Technologies gives his tips on  some key elements for a creative and appealing business website:

Simpsons Homepage

  1. Know your audience. Who is your customer and what type of information are they going to want when looking at your website?
  2. Create your brand guide. Your brand and image are the heartbeat of your company, make sure your color palate, logo, and word choice all properly reflect your company and mission.
  3. Tell your story. Evoke emotion with your customers; tell them what your business is all about.
  4. Build your website. Lay out what sections and information need to be on the site and how consumers will navigate it.
  5. Choose your technical skills wisely. Depending on your website needs, look to established companies like WordPress, GoDaddy, Google Analytics, and Constant Contact.
  6. Formulate your SEO strategy. How will you use Search Engine Optimization to increase the traffic to your site?
  7. Create your social media plan. Pad your website with social media platforms; connect with your consumers in more ways.
  8. Assemble your content. Images evoke emotion while text requires discipline. For an appealing website, use pictures of your company or employees that make your company relatable. No one wants to visit a website and just read text.
Gif Courtesy: Simpsons/Giphy.com/FoxStudios/Tumblr.com

BBB Offers Ten Giving Tips for Orlando Tragedy

Arlington, VA – In the wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, the BBB Serving Central Florida and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, caution donors about potential red flags in fund raising to help Orlando victims and their families, and to be aware of the different circumstances that often emerge in tragedy-related philanthropy.

“Tragedy inspires people to give, and this terrible tragedy is drawing incredible response already from people all around the world” said H. Art Taylor, President & CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance “The best way to help the victims, their families, and the people of Orlando is to make sure that donations end up where they belong. We are already hearing about click-bait schemes and questionable solicitations, and we expect there will numerous scams and frauds. We urge those generous donors to give wisely so their gifts can do the most good.”

Holly Salmons, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Florida, notes that “The world has rushed to support the City Beautiful and the victims on this heinous crime. We encourage those who want to show their support through donations to do so with caution. Scammers depend on heightened emotion and often follow closely behind tragic events.”

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are “Ten Tips for Giving with Confidence”

1. Thoughtful Giving

Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.

2. State Government Registration

About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

3. Respecting Victims and Their Families

Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the Colorado movie theater victims did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.

4. How Will Donations Be Used?

Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund?

Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)

6. Advocacy Organizations

Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.

7. Online Cautions

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. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.

8. Financial Transparency

After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

9. Newly Created or Established Organizations

This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.

10. Tax Deductibility

Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

New Campaign Launched to Fight Roofing Fraud in Colorado

Hail

  A group of nonprofit, government, and business organizations are working together to fight roofing contractor fraud in Colorado with a new public education campaign called No Roof Scams.

The campaign’s goal is to sound an alarm during severe weather season about the spike in roofing fraud and arm Colorado homeowners with information to protect themselves against being victimized by roofing scams. Help us spread the word by using #NoRoofScams and sharing anti-fraud advic, resources and messages.\

This week’s latest round of damaging hail battered South-Metro Denver and serves as a reminder that Colorado’s peak weather catastrophe season has arrived. The National Insurance Crime Bureau recently reported that Colorado is number two in the country for the number of insurance claims filed due to property damage from hailstorms to homes and businesses during the past three years. An overwhelming number of these claims include roof damage. The roof is every building’s first line of defense against Mother Nature, and Colorado’s roofs need to be as strong as possible given all the severe weather events that occur here, especially hailstorms.

Unfortunately, these storms can bring out the worst in people, especially unscrupulous roofing contractors who scam consumers needing to repair or replace their hail-damaged roofs. These fraudsters will often make false promises, insist on full payment upfront before work is completed, and sometimes even create damage where none occurred.

While most contractors are honest and reputable, others are not. In fact, the highest number of consumer inquiries to the Better Business Bureau of Denver-Boulder involve selecting reputable roofing contractors.

There are many things consumers can do to guard against being the victim of a fraudulent roofing contractor.

  • Look for well-established, licensed, insured and bonded roofing professionals with a federal tax identification number and a permanent address.
  • Ask for a contractor’s license number and confirm with your city or county building department that the license number was issued by them and is current.
  • Check to make sure the contractor is registered to conduct business in Colorado at https://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/BusinessEntityCriteriaExt.do.
  • Ask to see the company’s certificates of insurance. Verify with the insurer the certificate is valid, the contractor is endorsed for roofing work, and the contractor’s coverage for liability and workers’ compensation is current. CONSUMER TIP: Check the number of employees covered by the policy – a low number indicates the contractor will hire temporary help who may or may not have roofing experience.
  • Don’t hire a contractor who knocks on your door following a storm. Most legitimate roofing contractors do not conduct business this way.
  • Contact the Colorado Roofing Association (CRA) http://coloradoroofing.org, which maintains a current list of licensed, properly insured, professional contractors who have committed to abiding by the CRA Code of Ethics, and have passed a nationally recognized exam that addresses roofing work on residential and/or commercial property.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/denver) to check for complaints filed against any company you are considering hiring.
  • Be sure to get more than one estimate.
  • Require references that specifically include other homes in your area, and check them.
  • Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until all the work is completed.
  • Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away. Never sign a contract with blanks or statements like “see insurance estimate, etc.” – fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Always ensure that before you sign a contract it includes all the requirements established in Colorado Senate Bill 38.
    • Scope of work and materials to be provided.
    • Cost for same based on damages known at the time the contract is entered into.
    • Approximate dates of service.
    • Roofing contractor’s contact information.
    • Identification of contractor’s surety and liability coverage insurer and their contact information.
    • Contractor’s policy regarding cancellation of contract and refund of any deposit including a rescission clause allowing the property owner to rescind the contract for roofing services and obtain a full refund of any deposit within 72 hours after entering the contract.
    • A statement that if the property owner plans to pay for the roofing services through an insurance claim, the contractor cannot pay, waive or rebate the homeowner’s insurance deductible in part or in whole.
    • A statement that the contractor shall hold in trust any payment from the property owner until the contractor has delivered roofing materials to the jobsite or has performed a majority of the roofing work on the property.
    • A statement that the property owner may rescind a contract for services, the payment for which will be made from the proceeds of a property insurance claim, within 72 hours after receiving notice from their insurer that the claim is denied in whole or in part.

Organizations participating in the No Roof Scams campaign include:

  • Better Business Bureau – Denver/Boulder
  • Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Colorado Division of Insurance (Division of Regulatory Agencies)
  • Colorado Roofing Association
  • Insurance Institute for Business &  Home Safety
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau
  • Property Casualty Insurance Association of America
  • Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association

Follow #NoRoofScams this summer to learn more about how consumers can avoid being the victims of unethical roofing contractors and find reputable roofing contractors.

Renting? Make Sure the Place Really Exists Prior to Signing…

If you are hunting for an apartment on Craigslist, watch out for rental cons. A new report from New York University explores just how common these scams are.

Spoiler alert: they are everywhere.

Homer Rent

How the Scam Works:

You are looking at Craigslist apartment listings for a new place to live. You know that scams are common on the site, but just how prevalent are they? Very, according to the NYU researchers. Craigslist fails to identify more than half of rental scam listings, and suspicious posts linger for as long as 20 hours before being taken down.
Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for-rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities. Of those, there were three key types of scams. In the first, a fake post instructs a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.
In another scheme, con artists duplicate rental listings from other sites and post on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer. Another pervasive scam is “realtor service” companies. Targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

How to Spot a Rental Scam:

• Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash – once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
• Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
• See the property in person: Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
• Don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
• Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.

 

GIF courtesy giphy.com & SimpsonsWorld.com

BBB Tips to Ensure Wise Giving on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, the holiday that seeks to pay tribute to those who gave their lives serving in the military, many of us will pay respects to those who died by responding to requests for donations by veterans and military-affiliated organizations.  “As with any charity appeal, we urge donors to exercise caution and do some research before making a giving decision,” recommends H. Art Taylor, President and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “Donation requests by veterans groups are high around the Memorial Day holiday.”

As potential donors respond to appeals from such organizations, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advisory tips:

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You’ve Been Hit with Hail, Now What?

If you spend any time in Colorado, you are bound to hear the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”.   Colorado is famous for weather changing sporadically, and with dramatic shifts in air pressure and temperature the result can sometimes be treacherous hail.

In fact, per the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Colorado ranks second only to Texas for the number of insurance claims filed due to hail strikes on homes, property and cars in the past three years.

With the abundance of hail storms, consumers need to be weary of “storm chasers” or fraudsters that scam victims by making false promises to consumers who are looking to repair hail damage.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips when looking to repair automobiles or roofs.

General Tips

  • Get more than one estimate.
  • Don’t be pressured in signing a contract right away or at your doorstep
  • Always check with BBB, findacompany.org and request quotes from BBB Accredited Businesses
  • If you come across a faulty business, visit bbb.org/scamtracker/denver/ to help warn others of illegal scheme or fraud

Roofers

  • Get everything in writing
    • Cost, work to be done, time schedule, payment schedule and other expectations
  • Never sign a contract with blanks
  • Wait to pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is truly completed
  • Avoid giving a down payment unless special materials are being ordered
  • Ask if the company uses their own workers or if they hire individual, third-party subcontractors.
    • Know exactly who is working on your roof and who is responsible if something goes wrong
  • Verify applicable licensing and permits with your city and county
  • Always ensure that before you sign a contract it meets the terms set in Colorado Senate Bill 38
    • Contractors contact information
    • Scope of work and materials provided
    • Approximate dates of service and cost of materials/service
    • Roofers surety and liability coverage insurer and contact information
    • 72 hour right to rescind
    • Contractor cannot in away way pay, waive or rebate all or part of the insurance deductible
    • Contractor will hold in trust any payment until the majority of the work is performed or materials are delivered to the residence
    • 72 hour right to rescind after the insurance claim is denied.

Automobile

  • If under warranty, follow the manufacturer’s requirements to keep your warranty in effect
  • Make sure any certificates advertised are recently obtained and then independently verify this information
  • When receiving estimate, ask the service consultant to explain all work completed
  • Be sure warranty information is included in writing on the repair order.

Hail on Roof

Leverage Your Landscape Over the Neighbors

First, decide on the scope of your project. Do you want more color in the garden, a water feature, drip irrigation, walls, pathways, a deck, or more? You’ll need to clarify what improvements you want in order to choose a landscaper most suited to your project.

Bad Yardwork

Go big or go home. Small patches of color can work in a seating area where you’re right on top of the plantings; otherwise, paint with a big brush. Large swaths of color have the most impact for the long and middle views. Make a splash with large blossoms, such as peonies, hydrangeas, sunflowers, or multiflowered sprays that read as large blossoms like delphinium, snapdragons, and goldenrod. Plant in multiples: five tulips add color, but 30 make a statement.

Flower Kid

Dress for success. Just as you consider your skin tone, eyes, and hair color when you buy clothes, consider your house color and hardscaping when choosing color schemes.  One gardener loves purples and blues but found they didn’t work well when she lived on a property with a red barn. “I veered into a lot of the warmer colors,” she says. “I needed really deep, bright colors to show up against the barn.”

Sun Happy

Sun or shade. Colors perform differently in sun and shade. Deep, vibrant shades that catch fire in full sun look dark and dull in shade; conversely, pale hues that light up a shady corner can appear washed out in the sun.

Dog Rake

Don’t forget the greens. Foliage is to flowers as black velvet is to diamonds—it enhances the sparkle and color. But foliage can also be a design element  of its own. Think solid, speckled, striped, variegated, fat, skinny, smooth, bumpy, green, black, yellow, red, and purple.

Garden Loop

The hard stuff. Pops of garden color aren’t restricted to flowers. Add extra interest with ceramic urns, painted benches, weathered metal sculptures, or whatever catches your fancy. One gardener plays up the fiesta atmosphere on her deck with Chinese lanterns, paper stars, strings of lights, garlands of fans, and artifacts from her travels.

Lawnmower DogKeep it simple. Wandering through a nursery’s vast variety of species can be overwhelming. It’s easy to come home with either nothing or with a bunch of stuff that just doesn’t go together. It’s wise to control the variety of plants in your garden. A good rule of thumb is three of one variety of plant. Less really is more!

Gifs courtesy giphy.com

Festival Goers Fooled by Fake Tickets and Events

This summer, don’t fall for a festival scam. Scammers are tempting would-be festival goers into buying tickets for events promising all-you-can-eat crabs, live music and other fun. But in reality, either the ticket or the event itself is fake.

Festival Picture

How the Scam Works:

You see a great deal on tickets to a summer festival in your city, usually through a social media link. For a reasonable entrance fee, the festival offers delicious food such as all-you-can-eat crabs, live music, and/or craft beer and wine. You click the link, and it takes you to a website to buy tickets. Just enter your credit card information, and you are set.

Don’t do it! Better Business Bureaus across North America have reported fake festival sign-ups. Victims purchase tickets and show up at the time and location, only to find a crowd of frustrated ticket holders. Other times, the festival is real, but the tickets are fake.

How to Spot a Fake Festival Scam:

Do your research before purchasing. Search online for the name of the festival and make sure the name advertised matches the website. Scammers often use names that sound similar to those of real festivals.

Check for (working) contact information: Be sure the festival website has a phone number and email address.

Prices too good to be true: There is no way a festival can offer tickets at extremely low prices without losing money. If the prices are much lower than elsewhere, it’s likely a scam.

What Can You Do?

Pay with a credit card: You can dispute the charges if the business doesn’t come through. Be wary of online sellers that don’t accept credit cards.

Look for secure sites: The website should begin with https (the extra “s” is for secure) and have a little lock symbol on the address bar.

Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist and other free online listings:  Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts. Check out third-party ticket sites at bbb.org before making purchases.

For More Information

Learn more about festival scam in the Federal Trade Commission’s recent alert.  To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).