Dennis Horton | Special to the Rockford Register Star In 1912 a group of business people in Minnesota determined that something needed to be done to put trust in the marketplace. At that time consumers didn’t know who or what they could trust when purchasing goods and services. It was a bit of the wild,
| Special to the Rockford Register Star
In 1912 a group of business people in Minnesota determined that something needed to be done to put trust in the marketplace. At that time consumers didn’t know who or what they could trust when purchasing goods and services. It was a bit of the wild, wild west in terms or advertising. Business owners, salespeople and manufacturers would make claims about their products that were simply untrue. They would also make claims about their competitors’ products that were false.
The fear among those businesspeople was that if they didn’t self-regulate the government would eventually step-in. So, they formed what was called “Vigilance Committees” to uphold fundamental advertising standards that identified, challenged and called out misleading ads. The committees evolved into the Better Advertising Bureau, which is now the Better Business Bureau.
The doors of the first Chicago BBB office opened in 1926. It has since become the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. Rockford is its Regional Office.
The Bureau has remained committed to its work through good times and bad, protecting businesses and educating consumers during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Great Recession, and now a historical pandemic.
Steve Bernas, the BBB’s president and CEO, has been with the organization for more than 34 years. He says, “The BBB seal, the sign of a better business, has become more important and more relevant than ever before. All age groups from millennials to seniors are relying on the BBB for consumer protection and trustworthy business research.”
In its 95 years as a private nonprofit organization, little has changed about the BBB’s purpose to promote an ethical marketplace. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration.
Like Steve, I’ve also had a fairly long tenure with the BBB — 20 years this May. One of the things I’m most proud of is the bureau’s continued emphasis on educating and protecting the public.
That’s echoed in the words of former President George H.W. Bush. “Down through the years Better Business Bureaus have resolutely stayed the course showing themselves to be the best friend American consumers ever have had.”
Quoting Steve, “We are proud of our rich history and historical local roots and look forward to the next five years to our 100th anniversary and far beyond. We’re more optimistic than ever, and as 2021 continues to unfold we see a very bright light at the end of a short tunnel.”
The pandemic has brought about many changes including our social behavior and how we transact business.
The scannable QR “Quick Response” Codes have been around for a few years now. In the early days there was concern about how crooks would exploit them.
Now that more businesses are using them to get you to their online platforms the concern is growing.
In this case with convenience comes jeopardy. Using your smartphone makes it easy. A recent poll done by the security software firm MobileIron shows that 72% of consumers contacted said they had scanned a QR code during one single month.
According to Scambusters.org, the danger is “the codes can be generated quickly using free software. The crooks then produce stickers to place on top of genuine codes, leading users to fake or compromised websites.”
Additionally, they say: “The growing popularity of these graphics has led to much wider use — for example to reveal your location, follow social media accounts, create an email, restaurant menus, join a Wi-Fi network or even to cast a vote.”
So, what’s the danger? The MobileIron report shows that a lot of us don’t have or don’t know if we have security software installed on our smartphones.
Lack of security software means you could unknowingly download malware or giveaway personal and confidential information.
What should you do:
Don’t scan codes that don’t have any text or explanation with them.
Check for a raised edge on the code showing it’s a sticker. Again, don’t scan unless you check with someone — for example at a restaurant that may have updated its menu.
If the code takes you to a website, don’t provide any confidential information until you know for sure it’s genuine.
If scanning results in something you didn’t expect, like opening an email, don’t use it.
Use a secure QR code reader that checks its validity. There are lots of free ones. Simply search for “secure QR code scanner” or something similar.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.