Thursday, February 25, 2016

BBB Warns of Spring Break Scams

Burnsville, MN – February 25, 2016 – As winter drags on and spring break inches closer, a sunny vacation becomes all the more attractive. Many people are eager to trade cold weather for sunshine and the relaxing sound of waves crashing against the shore. Spring break usually means a week of fun and sun; however, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) warns people to plan ahead to avoid scams and common vacation pitfalls.

“Con artists and disreputable websites know that students are eager to make arrangements to book a getaway,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “They use that enthusiasm to their advantage.”

Scammers commonly target students looking to find great deals online by offering enticing vacation packages at unrealistically low prices. That’s why it’s important to do your research first. If you haven’t planned a vacation before, BBB ( is a great resource for finding travel agencies that are reputable and dependable.

Here are some additional tips from your BBB to help ensure a worry-free vacation:

·         Plan ahead. The early bird gets the worm. Allow yourself the time to research hotels, flights, and area where you’re staying. Typically, the earlier the reservations are made, the better the deals you will find and the lower the risk of your favorite destination being booked solid. Making reservations in advance also locks in rates and prevents you from paying higher prices later during prime spring break season.
·         Be alert for travel scams. Watch out for phone calls or letters claiming that you’ve “won a trip” or websites offering prices that are too good to be true. It’s easy to extend questionable offers like these, but the vast majority of them leave hopeful travelers in limbo – and out money.
·         Do your homework. Ask family and friends to recommend a travel agent or travel website and visit for free Business Reviews. If you’re using services like Airbnb or VRBO to find accommodations, be sure to research the business and read customer reviews about any rentals you’re considering.
·         Get the trip details in writing. Before making final payment, get all the details of the trip in writing. This should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels.Also review and keep a copy of the airline and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or vacation website - such as Travelocity or Priceline - you’re using.
·         Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover such things as trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different levels of coverage based on what type of plan you purchase. Ask a lot of questions, and always read the fine print to see what’s covered and what’s not.
·         Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.

If you’re not a planner and decide to set off on a spring break vacation on a whim, there are still ways you can protect yourself. First, inform a family member or friend of your itinerary and contact information. Second, take a map. People rely heavily on smartphones and GPS and it’s better to be prepared for anything in the case of technical difficulties or if you’re going through an area with poor reception. Finally, avoid traveling alone. Use the buddy system and stick with your friends. Use hotel safes to store extra cash and keep any valuables under lock and key

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ice fishing shelter removal dates approaching

Deadlines for removing fish houses, dark houses and portable shelters from state waterways are rapidly approaching, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Dates of removal are determined by an east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Hwy. 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
Shelters located south of this line must be removed by the end of the day on Monday, March 7.
Shelters located north of this line must be removed by the end of the day on Monday, March 21.
Exceptions are Minnesota-Canada border waters (March 31), Minnesota-Iowa border waters (Feb. 20), Minnesota-South Dakota and North Dakota border waters (March 5), and Minnesota-Wisconsin border waters (March 1).

“Anglers with permanent houses on the lakes should be reminded that the removal date for those shelters is approaching along with warmer temperatures,” said Conservation Officer (CO) Tony Salzer of Ham Lake.
“Please remove your ice shelters early if ice conditions begin to deteriorate,” he added.

CO Luke Gutzwiller of Madison had this advice: “Please remember to pick up your trash when leaving the lake.”
DNR officials said if shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted and structures may be confiscated and removed, or destroyed by a conservation officer.
After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied. Storing or leaving shelters on a public access is prohibited.
The DNR’s Enforcement Division Director Col. Rodmen Smith recommended checking ice thickness with an auger or spud bar before venturing onto a frozen pond, lake or river.
Smith said ice conditions can vary greatly, and anglers should know about the different types and characteristics of ice. Slush shows weakening of ice and should be considered a danger sign. If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, people should stay off. People should not go on the ice during thaws. Honeycombed ice, dark snow and dark ice should be avoided. Ice is generally thinner where there is moving water, such as near inlets and outlets, bridge abutments, islands and other objects that protrude through the ice.
According to information from the DNR Boat and Water Safety Unit, a minimum of 4 inches of new, clear ice is necessary for ice fishing; snowmobiling or ATV activity requires at least 5 inches; 8 to 12 inches are needed to support a car or small pickup; 12-15 inches are need for a medium truck.

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 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.