Thursday, February 4, 2016

BBB of MN/ND Releases Final Statistics for 2015




Burnsville, MN – February 4, 2016 – Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ®(BBB) has compiled lists of the Top Ten industries for consumer complaints and inquiries, according to their final statistics for 2015. These numbers are for complaints and inquiries from consumers in Minnesota and North Dakota regarding businesses which are headquartered in our region. The local BBB provided 5.2 million BBB Business Reviews to the public last year. 

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota received just shy of 23,000 complaints in 2015, which is down slightly from the previous year. However, the local BBB processed more than 5,000 customer reviews, which more than makes up for the decrease in complaints. BBB began offering customer reviews in late 2014. Per BBB rules, consumers can’t file a complaint and a customer review regarding the same marketplace experience. Of those customer reviews, 3,800 were classified as positive. BBB’s complaint resolution rate remained steady at 90% in 2015.

“We’re pleased to see that the vast majority of customer reviews submitted last year were positive,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “We feel the fact we now offer customer reviews explains the decrease in consumer complaints, and while we don’t expect complaint levels to decrease further, we do expect that customer reviews submitted through BBB will only increase.”

Once again, industries which most directly affect people’s day to day lives – auto dealers, auto repair and construction – made up half of the Top Ten list for complaints. Collection agencies topped the list of industries with the most inquiries from the public in last year, with general contractors coming in second. Trade industries once again claimed five spots on this year’s BBB Top Ten inquiry list.

BBB’s statistics for 2015 are as follows:

Top Ten industries by volume of complaints

1.  Auto Dealers – New
2.  Newspapers
3.  Auto Dealers - Used
4   Property Management
5   Banks
6.  Auto Repair & Services
7.  Construction & Remodeling Services
8.  Furniture - Retail
9.  Electronic Equipment & Supplies - Dealers
10. Contractors - General

Top Ten industries by consumer inquiries:
1.  Collection Agencies
2.  Contractors - General
3.  Construction & Remodeling Services
4.  Roofing Contractors
5.  Auto Dealers - Used
6.  Checks - Printing
7.  Property Management
8.  Pillows
9.  Home Builders
10.  Plumbers

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Corn producers should anticipate calls for 2016 survey

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging farmers to take part in its annual pesticide and fertilizer use survey. The 2016 survey is directed at corn producers and hay growers. The data helps the MDA track the use of agricultural chemicals on Minnesota farms and provides guidance to educational and research programs.

The survey process should begin February 10 and be completed by February 28. Questions will focus on the 2015 growing season and survey farmers on pesticide applications on corn and hay grown in Minnesota and on best management practices when it comes to nitrogen and manure applied to corn. The annual survey is completely voluntary and no personal questions are asked of producers.
Minnesota farmers may be getting calls from multiple agencies and companies conducting a variety of surveys this time of year, but the information gathered from this survey is critical for research purposes. The survey is conducted for the MDA by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service out of their regional offices in Missouri. The MDA has conducted this annual survey for the past decade.
If you have questions about the MDA’s annual survey, or if you wish to view results of previous surveys, visit the MDA website at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/chemicals/pestfertsurvey.aspx. Producers can also call the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at 651-261-1993 between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Clean power plan meetings set for Greater Minnesota



The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will hold a series of public meetings in greater Minnesota during the month of February to discuss what the state needs to do in order to develop a plan for complying with the Clean Power Plan. 
The Clean Power Plan is a federal rule finalized last fall designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants nationwide. The US Environmental Protection Agency requires the states to develop plans for complying with the rule by fall of 2018.  The MPCA is leading the development of Minnesota’s plan, and encourages interested Minnesotans to learn more and tell us what’s important in crafting the plan.
Each of the meetings will begin with an open house from 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm, followed by a presentation and listening session from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm.  Additional meetings will be scheduled later for the Twin Cities area.  The February meetings are scheduled for:
February 2, Marshall at Southwest Minnesota State University; 1501 State Street; Conference Center, Upper Ballroom
February 9, St. Cloud at St. Cloud State University; 720 4th Avenue South; Atwood Memorial Center, Voyageurs Room
February 16, Bemidji at Bemidji State University; 1500 Birchmont Drive Northeast; American Indian Resource Center
February 23, Duluth at University of Minnesota-Duluth; 1049 University Drive; Swenson Civil Engineering Building, Rooms 265/231
For more information:  For information about the Clean Power Plan, visit the MPCA’s Clean Power Plan webpage at www.pca.state.mn.us

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reservations due for seasonal and monthly camping at Minnesota state parks

Those who just can’t get enough of the scenic beauty at Minnesota state parks in a week or two stay, should act now to nab one of the few campsites available for longer stays, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

At a limited number of state park campsites, visitors can stay for a whole month or even a full season. Reservations for these opportunities are due by Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016.
For pricing and other park-specific information, or to submit a request to reserve a site, prospective visitors can call the phone numbers listed below or check the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/extended_stay.html.
Nine Minnesota state parks have monthly and seasonal openings for camping in 2016.
  • Myre-Big Island State Park (507-379-3403) in Albert Lea will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 6 to Labor Day (Sept. 5) at four campsites, three of which have electric hook-ups.
  • Lac qui Parle State Park (320-734-4450) in Montevideo will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 6 to Labor Day at two electric campsites and three with a full hook-up to water, sewer and electricity.
  • Upper Sioux Agency State Park (320-564-4777) in Granite Falls will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 6 to Labor Day at two campsites, both of which have electric hook-ups.
  • Big Stone Lake State Park (320-839-3663) in Ortonville will offer monthly and seasonal camping from May 6 to Labor Day at two sites with an electric hook-up.
  • Kilen Woods State Park will offer monthly and seasonal camping from May 27 to Labor Day at three sites with electric hook-ups. Please call Phil Nasby at 507-831-2900, ext. 225, for information.
  • Rice Lake State Park (507-455-5871) in Owatonna will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 6 to Labor Day at three campsites, two of which have electric hook-ups.
  • Lake Bronson State Park (218-754-2200) near Hallock will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 8 to Labor Day at 10 sites with electric hook-ups.
  • Hayes Lake State Park (218-754-2200) south of Roseau will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 8 to Labor Day at seven sites with electric hook-ups.
  • Old Mill State Park (218-754-2200) near Thief River Falls will offer monthly or seasonal camping from May 22 to Labor Day at seven sites with electricity and water.
If demand exceeds availability at a particular park, a lottery will be conducted on Monday, Feb. 1, or as soon as possible, and the park will notify applicants whether or not they were selected. If sites are available after this date, they will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. No preference will be given to monthly or seasonal campers from prior years.
For monthly campsite reservations, the entire monthly fee is due by Friday, April 15.  For seasonal campsite reservations, a one-month down payment is due by Friday, April 15, and the remainder of the seasonal fee is due when visitors arrive to check-in. If a lottery is not necessary and sites are available after Jan. 31, the monthly fee must be paid at the time of reservation to hold the site.

BBB Warns of Tax-Refund Fraud



Burnsville, MN – January 14, 2016 – With another tax season coming up quickly, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) warns taxpayers about tax-related identity theft, which occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a fraudulent tax return and claim your refund. Though this type of fraud is tough to prevent against – beyond taking steps to safeguard your personal information – BBB offers some tips to help consumers recognize when it’s occurred and steps they can take to mitigate the situation from there.

According to CNBC, tax-refund fraud is expected to total $21 billion in 2016. This type of fraud often occurs without the victim knowing it, until they file their tax return and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number. Another way people learn they’ve been victimized is when the IRS sends them a letter saying they have identified a suspicious return using their SSN.

BBB seeks to make people aware that this is a growing problem and one they need to be prepared for. Some ways to decrease your risk of becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft include: safeguarding your Social Security number and other sensitive personal information, and filing your tax return as promptly as possible. This year, the IRS has announced they will begin accepting tax returns on January 19. The filing deadline to submit 2015 tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2016, rather than the traditional April 15 date.

The IRS offers some additional identity protection tips for taxpayers:
  • Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and will automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer. Use strong passwords.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card provider or even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
  • Guard your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about:
o    More than one tax return being filed using your SSN.
o    Owing additional tax; your refund being offset; or if you’ve had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
o    IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
If your SSN has been compromised or you know or suspect that you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends that you:
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed to do so, visit IDVerify.irs.gov.  
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or if you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Visit bbb.org or click here for BBB tips on how to find a qualified tax preparer.