Milwaukee, Wis., April 29, 2010 – The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers that an alleged Wisconsin-based military support service, Help4Troops, is a work-at-home, shipping scam that claims to help American troops overseas.
Help4Troops, also known as Work4Troops, claims to manage mail and send packages to American troops in 36 countries. The company’s website reports that 90 percent of these packages are assembled by “volunteer shippers” who accumulate a number of small packages at their home address to consolidate into a larger box, which is then shipped overseas using Help4Troops-provided postage, tracking numbers and addresses.
Help4Troops promises to each volunteer a salary of $20 per package shipped, and requests personal banking information in order to deliver these payments via check, wire or money transfer using Western Union or PayPal. While boasting “powerful sponsors who help us to provide troops with this service and to pay our volunteers,” Help4Troops does not elaborate on important financial information.
A consumer contacted the Wisconsin BBB in mid-April to report her concerns about Help4Troops, which “hired” her as a “Volunteer Shipper” after she posted her resume on the online employment site CareerBuilder.com. After two weeks of receiving and repackaging items, she received a call from a Chicago resident whose bank had contacted him about a suspicious attempt to access his account to purchase gift cards. The gift cards were listed under the consumer’s mailing address.
Because of the bank’s intervention, the transaction did not take place. Help4Troops stopped returning the consumer’s e-mails, however, and she discovered that the telephone number provided to reach Help4Troops’ management was instead a fax number.
The BBB has confirmed that Help4Troops is not located at its listed address in Spring Green, Wis.; 121 West Jefferson St. is the location of a local barbershop. Neither Help4Troops nor Work4Troops is registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions or the IRS, as required by law to conduct business in Wisconsin. And despite its website’s claim that Help4Troops has been commended by “the President of the United States, the governor of Maryland, the mayor of Baltimore, and the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce,” the company is not known or recognized by the Department of Defense and is not listed in the National Resource Directory.
Red flags are critical in recognizing a shipping scam. Beware of employment offers in which:
• The company requires receiving and shipping packages, most often overseas, for a commission that is delivered via money transfer. These scams may involve an individual unknowingly shipping stolen goods overseas.
• The company claims to provide a personal account to reimburse shipping costs—it is most likely set up through stolen financial information.
• The company is difficult to contact or its information cannot be verified.
• Employment starts without a face-to-face interview and the primary form of communication is e-mail. Often the company’s website is a free, generic domain that has only recently been registered.
• Grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes abound in e-mail correspondences or on the company’s website, and especially if the website’s format is distractingly amateur.
To avoid being boxed in by shipping scams like this one, follow these BBB guidelines:
• Don’t be fooled by attractive advertising. Especially in instances of charity scams, be cautious of your emotions getting the best of your reason. Scams like Help4Troops often provide powerful testimonials or success stories to lure compassionate, unsuspecting victims.
• Check with the BBB. Help4Troops has an “F” rating with the BBB. A full Reliability Report is available for Help4Troops, and thousands of other businesses and charities, at www.wisconsin.bbb.org.
• Visit www.ourmilitary.mil to find a listing of charities associated with the military, including the BBB Military Line, a partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD) Financial Readiness Campaign that brings BBB services to military personnel, retirees, DoD civilians and their families.
For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), (920)-734-4352 (Appleton) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).