The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912 Report Scam and now has branches serving consumers throughout all the USA and Canada. The BBB was set up to help consumers to identify “better businesses”. The BBB offers a means of settling disputes between consumers and businesses quickly through arbitration. The BBB also works to improve the relationship between consumers and businesses through consumer education and a system of voluntary self regulation on the part of business owners.
You will probably be wondering how an institution famous for consumer protection, like the BBB comes to be involved in an Internet scam. To be clear, the BBB is not a willing participant in a scam, it is a victim of a scam that also affects other reputable organisations such as the International Council Of Online Professionals (ICOP).
The scam is being perpetrated by unscrupulous webmasters. The way the scam works is simple and the scammers are getting away with it because people either accept what they see at face value and don’t bother to check up or don’t even realise there is a way to check to protect themselves against this scam.
In order to be admitted as a member of the BBB or ICOP, business owners must be able to prove that their business complies with strict guidelines and that they are ethical in their business activities. If an online business meets the strict standards and is approved by the BBB or ICOP, the business owner is entitled to display the company’s membership seal on his/her website.
Although many consumers are aware of the function of bodies such as the BBB and ICOP and recognise their membership seals as a mark of trust, not all of them realise that they should click on the seal to check that its use on a particular website has been duly authorised. If the seal is being used legitimately, clicking on it will take you to the official website where it will confirm that the website you clicked through from has attained membership.
Scammers are using the seals to trick people into believing they are trustworthy and that their business meets the high standards set by the BBB or ICOP. These webmasters get away with this scam because people recognise the seals and take their presence on trust or just do not know that there is a way for them to check the validity of the seal.
When a BBB or ICOP seal is displayed on a website without the proper authority, you will most often find that the seal on the website does not have a clickable link. Alternatively, clicking on the seal will just take you to an unrelated web page or to a generic page belonging to the organisation, where there is no reference to the status of the website where you clicked the seal.
To protect yourself and to ensure that the good work done by the BBB and ICOP is not undermined by scammers, make it a habit to always click on their seals when you see them on a website. To make the Internet a safer place, unauthorised users of these seals should be reported to BBB Online or ICOP.