BBB: Guard against bed bugs to exterminate scams

The alarming increase in bed bug infestations enables some self-proclaimed pest control professionals the opportunity to go into homes — not to solve your bed bug issue but to take your money.

So far in 2011, the Better Business Bureau has received more than 375 complaints against pest control service companies. Here are the BBB's recommended tips for choosing a trustworthy pest control company:

* Research the company with the BBB. Use the Accredited Business Locator to assist in finding a local company that upholds BBB's standards for ethical business practices.

* Make sure the exterminator has sufficient training and certifications.

* Find out how the company is covered by liability insurance, and how you will be reimbursed if there are damages to your belongings or home.

* Make sure you understand the extent of the infestation, costs of extermination and side effects of any chemicals used.

* Always read the fine print on contracts and pay attention to warranties.

Preventing the problem of bed bugs will prevent the possibility of a pest control scam. The BBB, along with the Federal Trade Commission, recommends the following for preventing bed bugs from entering your home:

* Inspect secondhand furniture, beds and couches for signs of bed bug infestations before bringing them home.

* Bed bugs can also hide in books, so be careful checking out books from libraries, buying books from garage sales, taking books on vacations, etc.

* Reduce clutter in your home. Don't give bed bugs a place to hide.

* Enclose mattresses and box springs in covers labeled "allergen rated," "for dust mites," or "for bed bugs." Check these periodically for rips or openings and patch them.

* Repair cracks in plaster, loose wallpaper or any loose light switch covers. Apply caulk to seal crevices, joints in baseboards and gaps on shelves or cabinets.

Remember these tips when traveling:

* Use luggage racks to hold suitcases when packing and unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.

* Check the mattress and headboard before getting into bed. Examine linens for dark spots about the size of a pinhead. These are bed bug feces and may bleed on fabric like a felt-tip marker.

* When you return home, unpack directly into a washing machine. Wash all items showing bed bug stains and dry on the highest setting for at least 20 minutes. The heat from the dryer will kill the bugs.

* Inspect and vacuum your luggage. Empty the vacuum or seal and dispose of its bag outside your home after each use.

For more information on choosing a trustworthy pest controller or to learn more about keeping bed bugs out of your home, visit or call 800-856-2417.

Happening now

* Paving scams

The BBB advises businesses and individuals to be wary of a company that says it has extra asphalt to offer at a discount. The company quoted one business owner a price of $4,000, which was agreed to, and then billed him $15,600. We advise you to ask the company if they are from your community and have a local address. Never do business without a written contract.

* Secret shopper scams

Have you received a secret shopper opportunity in the mail? The large check you receive may appear legitimate, but is not. Please contact the BBB to check out these secret shopper opportunities.