BBB warns Pennsylvania seniors to watch for scams

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Western Pennsylvania residents, particularly the elderly, should be alert for potential scammers targeting their cash, warns the Better Business Bureau's local chapter.

“We've got the second-oldest population in the country,” said Warren King, president of the BBB of Western Pennsylvania. “Companies target this area because of that.”

Up to 80 percent of scam victims are older than 65, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Research from insurance giant MetLife shows that fraud costs Americans older than 60 nearly $3 billion a year.

The BBB is now warning Western Pennsylvanians of six companies about which it has received complaints. They are located around the country but target local residents, including the elderly, as well as local businesses.

“The schemes don't change,” King said. “Just the companies' names change.”

Among those on the BBB's list are:

• American Entry Exchange of Miami, which is accused of telling people they have won $2.5 million but must pay a $20 transfer and processing fee to collect the prize.

• Nicols & Grant, a Cheekowaga, N.Y., collections agency that is accused of harassing and threatening people without always providing proof of debt owed.

• Tummy Tuck Slimming System of Van Nuys, Calif., which is accused of questionable billing and collection issues.

• World Law Debt of Austin, Texas, which is accused of accepting payment for debt negotiations but not rendering services.

Except for Nicols & Grant, the companies could not be reached for comment or did not return messages left by the Tribune-Review.

Frank Lewis, director of operations for Nicols & Grant, said companies such as his often are vilified for just doing their job.

“You're going to look at anyone who collects debt, and they're all going to be scams supposedly,” Lewis said. “It's the nature of the business. People think horribly of us.”

Among complaints the BBB has received about Nicols & Grant is that representatives sometimes tell people they face jail time for unpaid debts, a practice King called illegal.

“Jail is ridiculous,” Lewis said. “If I heard anyone here say that, I would walk them out myself.”

Two companies made the list for targeting businesses, King said.

Those were Big State Industrial Supply Inc. of Riverside, Calif., and US Public Yellowpages of Henderson, Nev. The BBB received complaints about the billing practices of both companies. Neither could be reached for comment.

“In many instances, businesses never even know they've been scammed,” King said.

The local BBB chapter, based in Green Tree, processes 10,000 complaints about businesses each year, King said. About 7,000 of those are for companies in one of the other 115 BBB territories around the country, he said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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