Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don’t miss Dateline NBC on Sunday, Jan 30. BBB and Dateline’s Chris Hansen partner to expose a nationwide air duct cleaning scam.

This Sunday, January 30th at 7pm/6pm CT, Dateline presents a compelling new franchise, "The Hansen Files." With the help of the Better Business Bureau, Chris Hansen and "Dateline's" hidden cameras uncover secrets and scams-- taking a special look into a nationwide ring of air duct cleaning companies. This brazen scam-- one that has thrived for more than a decade-- cons thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars, and targets one of the most vulnerable segments of the population: the elderly. "Dateline" discovers that many air duct cleaning companies across the country are using advertising tricks, such as the infamous "bait and switch," promising a low price for the service, only to raise it once in the door. Using hidden cameras, viewers watch what happens as our volunteers call one of the rogue companies. What you'll see next will surprise and offend you, as these air duct cleaners take our volunteers to the cleaners! But the technician will be in for a surprise when Chris Hansen shows up to expose them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Insurance Policies

With winter weather occurring, your Better Business Bureau and the Illinois Department of Insurance reminds the public to check insurance policies on the following:

Snow Plowing

• Before offering to help remove snow from a friend’s driveway with a plow on your truck, read through your policy or talk with your insurance company or agent to make sure you are covered. Your personal automobile policy may not cover your liability and any property damage you might cause.

• If you are using your plow to make a little extra cash this winter, your personal auto insurance policy may not provide coverage. Consider a commercial automobile policy – one that includes coverage for plowing – before committing your services.

Snow Removal at Home

• Generally, your homeowner or renter’s policy will cover liability for injuries should someone slip and fall on your property. However, your insurance company is going to expect that you are performing due diligence to make the walks around your home safe for visitors. If your city has a law requiring snow removal your insurance company may consider that in evaluating a claim, so be sure to check with your city to see what laws apply.

Travel Insurance

• If you are worried about not getting to your destination, or getting stuck, some travel sites and airlines offer travel insurance, which can cover everything from lost luggage to delays and cancellations. Make sure you closely read any policy you consider to be certain what it covers, and ask questions if you don't understand the limits or coverage.

Winter Illness

• Doctors' offices are crowded during cold and flu season. Your health insurance policy may offer alternatives to waiting at the doctor’s office. Ask your health insurer whether your plan includes a nurse answer line that can answer questions about your symptoms or check if your local pharmacy has a quick treatment center that accepts your health insurance.

Find insurance agencies you can trust at www.bbb.org

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

J.B. Brocato's CruxRainmaking Blog

For business development advice, please visit http://www.cruxrainmaking.com/, a blog by author J.B. Brocato.  His approach to business development proposes a single, simple, and effective way to exponentially grow business for three types of people: service providers, sales professionals (i.e., people who sell products to other people or procurement departments), and fundraisers for non-for-profit organizations. If you are responsible for generating, or would like to generate, more revenue for your firm, company, or not-for-profit organization, you may be interested in his blog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

BBB and Dateline NBC Expose Nationwide Air-Duct Cleaning Scam

This Sunday, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m. EST "Dateline NBC" presents a compelling new feature, "The Hansen Files." With the help of BBB, Chris Hansen and "Dateline"'s hidden cameras uncover secrets and scams -- taking a special look into a nationwide ring of air-duct cleaning companies. This brazen scam -- one that has thrived for more than a decade -- cons thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars, and targets one of the most vulnerable segments of the population: the elderly.

Tax Tips

The Internal Revenue Service announced that taxpayers have until April 18 to file their tax returns.

According to the IRS, “Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 17 to file their 2010 tax returns.”

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips for individuals working on their returns:

• Check for missing, incorrect or illegible Social Security Numbers which can delay a tax refund.

• Taxpayers must sign and date returns. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even with one income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign.

• File electronically instead of using paper tax forms to receive your refund more rapidly; by choosing direct deposit, consumers may also receive their refunds in as few as 10 days.

• Make any check out to “United States Treasury” and enclose it with, but don't attach it to, your return or Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher. Include your Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed.

• Be sure to keep all receipts and other documents and forms that were used in preparing your tax return. The IRS has three years to audit a return. They can audit you without limitation if you do not file, file a false return, or purposely avoid paying taxes.

• If you notice a mistake on your prepared federal tax return, you can make changes by filing a 1040X. You have three years after filing to correct your return with this form.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Better Business Bureau Checklist for Winterizing Your Home

Year after year, people look for ways to save money on heating their homes. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is offering a checklist for homeowners to safely prepare their homes during the winter months and perhaps save a few dollars in the process.

According to the Energy Information Administration, home heating costs this winter are expected to rise by four-percent for homes relying on natural gas and eight-percent for homes heated by propane or electricity. Luckily, homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home.

“High heating costs are a problem each winter for cash-strapped consumers making it especially important to winterize their homes,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It makes good economic sense because a small up-front investment can pay dividends for months by increasing the energy efficiency of a house and reducing overall heating costs.”

The following is a BBB home winterizing checklist:

* Caulking and Weather Stripping. To prevent air leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors and check for cracking and peeling. In addition, ensure that doors and windows shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn down weather stripping.

* Ceiling fans. By reversing the direction of your ceiling fan so the blades turn clockwise, you push warm air down and force it around the room.

* Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For newer furnaces, make sure the filter is clean and the thermostat is working properly.

* Heating ducts. Ducts should be cleaned once every two years. Homeowners should also consider adding insulation to any exposed ductwork in order to prevent losing heated air.

* Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. Create the same emergency kit for the car as well, including a couple blankets.

* Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and installing fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

* Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should have been cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to help prevent stagnate air.

* Windows. Window screens should be taken down and replaced with storm windows; they provide an extra layer of protection and keep the house warmer. Investing in a window insulator kit is an inexpensive option to keep out drafts as well.

For more advice you can trust and free referrals on home maintenance and saving money this winter, visit BBB online at www.bbb.org

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