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Better Business Bureau identifies top scams

If you get a call from a magazine sales person, be sure to ask them to send you the offer in writing before you provide your credit card number.

That's the advice from the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, which says that magazine telephone scams are on the rise and predict they will be prevalent in 2011.

The BBB, which opened an office in downtown Fargo last fall, says it has received thousands of calls about scams this past year.

"The unique role we play gives us insight into current trends and helps us to predict what to expect in the coming year," a news release said.

The Better Business Bureau on Wednesday released its list of scams to watch out for in 2011. Others to be on the lookout for this year include ATM skimming, job scams, online shopping scams, and fraudulent charities.

Also on Wednesday, the group released its 2010 statistical roundup, including a top 10 industry list for customer complaints and a top 10 industry list for customer inquiries.

Complaints against auto dealerships, new and used, topped the complaint list.

With new cars, the complaints generally had to do with alleged sales practice issues such as pricing and financing, contract issues such as items that were discussed but not included in the contract, and product and warranty issues, according to Dan Hendrickson, BBB communications coordinator.

Used car complaints, more often than not, involved alleged product defects and/or contract/ financing disputes, Hendrickson said.

Complaints against contractors also were prevalent in 2010. Four categories in the construction field made the list. The construction industry also topped the list of inquiries in 2010.

Collection agencies moved up that list from the year before, from No. 6 to No. 4, which the bureau says could be a reflection of the uncertain economic conditions and consumers wanting to verify that companies contacting them about debts were legitimate.

The Minnesota and North Dakota bureau handled roughly 24,500 complaints in 2010, resolving nearly 90 percent of them, according to the news release.

"The number of complaints we received were actually slightly down last year," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. "That certainly doesn't mean we were less busy - at all. On the contrary, what we're hoping is that decline was due to our efforts to remind consumers they should check out companies with us before making purchasing decisions."

Consumers can access company reports and tips, as well as file complaints, online at

Operators are also available to answer questions from the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (701) 271-2855, or toll-free at (800) 646-6222.

Top 10 complaints on industries:

* Auto dealers - new

* Auto dealers - used

* Siding contractors

* Auto repair and service

* General contractors

* Roofing contractors

* Construction and remodeling services

* Banks

* Window installation and services

* Television - cable CATV and satellite

Top 10 inquiries on industries:

* General contractors

* Roofing contractors

* Construction and remodeling services

* Collection agencies

* Heating and air conditioning

* Mortgage brokers

* Auto Dealers - used

* Auto Dealers - new

* Plumbing contractors

* Internet shopping

- Better Business Bureau