Why a website's seal of approval doesn't always mean its safe

Fresno, CA Tony Giorgianni, Consumer Reports said: "Companies post web seals on their site to show that their business is on the up and up, or that they protect their customer's privacy. But you can't always count on them."

Take the seal from the Online Business Bureau. The company claims its better at "Protecting consumers online" than the better business bureau.

Tony Giorgianni, Consumer Reports said: "All companies have to do to get a seal from the online business bureau is to pay $14.97 a month, a onetime initiation fee, and they get a green rating indicating they're a recommended business."

And companies that don't pay, even the venerable American Red Cross, get a yellow warning, telling consumers "We cannot verify this merchant's status" and "proceed with caution."

And just because a site has lots of seals, doesn't mean it's necessarily a good business. Take Freedom Debt Relief.

Tony Giorgianni, Consumer Reports said: "We checked the company at the better business bureau, and it had more than 200 complaints and an 'F' rating."

And it turns out there's even a potential problem with the better business bureau's own "BBB seal of accredited businesses."

Tony Giorgianni, Consumer Reports said: "Click on the seal and you're supposed to get the company's BBB report. But they can be faked. This one, for example, shows an 'A+' rating. But the BBB says this report is a fake."

So consumer reports said you have to go directly to the better business bureau's web site at bbb.org to check out a site.

Besides checking out a site at bbb.org, Consumer Reports recommends doing a web search. Put in the company's name and words such as "complaints" and "rip-off" to see if anything comes up.

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