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Tips for avoiding scams, telemarketers

Educating the public is one of the primary goals of the Better Business Bureau. We have information resources available to pass on to businesses and consumers. We provide information regarding no-call lists, managing your money and preventing fraud.

Filing a complaint _ The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to help consumers recognize, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get fee information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call 877-382-4357.

The FTC records consumer complaints (Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints) into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure, online database and investigative tool available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Do not call registry _ The FTC launched the National Do Not Call Registry to give Americans a choice about getting telemarketing calls at home. If you don't want to receive calls from telemarketers, the FTC recommends that you:

* Add your number to the registry. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 from the phone line you want registered. If you register online, you will receive a confirmation e-mail. You will need to click on the link in this e-mail within 72 hours of receiving it or you will not be added to the registry, and telemarketers may continue to call.

* Understand that some calls are not covered. Once your number has been on the registry for 31 days, most telemarketing calls will stop. However, you still may get calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors and other businesses. You can stop these calls by asking those companies to put your number on their own no-call list.

* File a complaint. If your number has been on the registry for at least 31 days and a telemarketer calls, complain to the FTC using the Web address or phone number listed above.

Free credit reports _ You can request a free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You may want to request your credit reports one at a time, every four months so you can monitor your credit throughout the year, without having to pay for a report. If you ask the credit bureaus directly, they will charge you a fee to obtain your report. You can order your free report online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.

Happening now

The BBB wants to alert consumers to common scams:

* Fake Check Scams — You won't discover the check is worthless until after you've deposited it to wire the money back to the contact.

* Sweetheart Swindles — Criminals befriend you online and then request money.

* Auctions — Beware of fraudulent sellers and bogus merchandise.

* Lotteries — Foreign lotteries are illegal and probably are a scam.

* Advance Fee Loans and Credit — It's illegal to charge a fee in advance for help getting a loan.

The BBB has free Consumer Action Handbooks available to consumers, which are full of great information and tips. Contact the BBB at 800-856-2417 or online at www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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