Where to turn with product & service complaints

It's very easy to get into trouble looking for 'deals' online--or making an agreement for goods or services. Where to go for help if you think you've been wronged

The people who handle consumer complaints know they come in cycles: right now as we go into snow season, they're braced for concerns about snow removal companies.

Even people who teach how to avoid bad deals are targeted. Sheila Sicilia teaches computer studies at OCC, and her basic course includes how to avoid being taken in 'pfishing' scams - offers for services that actually get you to give up personal information, including bank account or credit card numbers.

"It's very tempting to keep it a secret," Sicilia tells us, "because you were fooled. But that's the wrong thing to do."

The thing to do, is to report it. Tell your bank, or if you were fooled into trying to do business on a fake website, go to the real one. Sicilia says reputable businesses will make good on your losses.

The Better Business Bureau has people who will take complaints (in writing) and Melanie McGovern with BBBUpstate NY says it also runs a 'scam tracker' which keeps tracks of reported scams, including phishing and online purchases that went bad. There are also people who work to resolve complaints through mediation.

The scams keep coming: one going around now claims to be from Netflix, telling subscribers their billing information needs updating, and that requires credit card numbers. The email urges subscribers to log in, to what is actually a fake site. Sicilia suggests NEVER click on a 'ready' link, type in the actual site yourself, or at the very least hover your mouse over the link as it should reveal that it's not legit.

Some basic reminders: NEVER give out personal or account information, and if the deal sounds too good, it probably is.

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