Private Tax Collectors to Begin Collecting for IRS: Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Rights

Taxation Word Shows Excise Levy And Duty

Written by Amy Biviano, BBB Foundation Director

The IRS announced this week that private debt collection companies will start collecting overdue tax bills in spring 2017. They’ve also released the names and contact information of the four companies awarded those contracts.

  1. CBE Group, 1309 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
  2. Conserve, 200 CrossKeys Office Park, Fairport, NY 14450
  3. Performant, 333 N Canyons Parkway, Livermore, CA 94551
  4. Pioneer, 325 Daniel Zenker Dr, Horseheads, NY 14845

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, passed in December 2015, the IRS is required to use third party, private collection contracts to collect long term, outstanding tax bills. Several factors contribute to the IRS assigning these accounts to private collection agencies, including older, overdue tax accounts, and a lack of resources prevents the IRS staff from working these cases.

According to the IRS, the chosen collection companies are required to agree to respect taxpayers’ rights, including the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and to be courteous in their communications. The collection agencies are permitted to identify themselves as IRS contractors collecting taxes. While the IRS includes information about these changes on www.irs.gov, and encourages consumers to frequently check the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on their site, there are warning signs that tax scams will continue to proliferate and likely will increase, given this significant change.

In light of the unending phone scams in which criminals impersonate the IRS and demand immediate payments of taxes, the IRS says it will do everything it can to help taxpayers avoid confusion and understand their rights and responsibilities to pay any tax due. The IRS warns taxpayers to be especially careful of scams where callers claim to be collecting on behalf of the IRS.

Since most scammers have long differed from official IRS communications in their use of phone calls and emails while the IRS has strictly communicated by letters through the postal mail, the confusion between official and potentially false information may increase dramatically with this change. No longer can a consumer count on the fact that they have been contacted by a method other than the mail as an easy check on fraudulent activity, a policy that gave consumer advocates an easy to convey message and many targeted seniors more peace of mind.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following precautions to keep in mind, should a consumer receive a call about a past due account:

  • You will pay the IRS directly. Private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card, a practice used by current tax scammers.  Instead, tax payers will be informed about electronic payment options currently located on http://www.irs.gov/Payments. The consumer can also opt to pay a past due balance by check, but this payment should only be payable to the US Treasury and sent directly to the IRS, never the private collection agency.
  • You will still get a letter. Any collection assignment must be preceded by two separate letters alerting the taxpayer of a past due balance and the pending collection activity. This procedure more closely mirrors prior IRS policy and may avoid some scam activity, but that is not clear at this point.
  • Not everyone is affected. Accounts that will not be sent to private collection agencies include taxpayers who are: deceased, under the age of 18, military members in designated combat zones, victims of tax-related identity theft, currently under examination or audit, currently in a payment plan, classified as an innocent spouse, and those in presidentially declared disaster areas.
  • You can opt out. Consumers who do not wish to work with the assigned private collection agency to settle overdue tax accounts must submit a request in writing to the private agency directly.

The IRS also advised any taxpayer who wants to make a complaint about a private collection agency or about the behavior of a specific employee to contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484, online at tigta.gov or in writing to:

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Hotline, PO Box 595, Ben Franklin Station, Washington DC 20044-0589.

As always, the BBB Scam Tracker and bbb.org remain reliable resources for consumer information and scam detection and reporting resources.

Amy Biviano serves as the Foundation Director for BBB serving the Northwest. Biviano is a CPA and holds an MBA in Taxation from Gonzaga University and a BA in Anthropology from Yale University. 

Get Your Debt in Check

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While reports show that young adults aren’t racking up credit card debt, they are in fact failing to save and are unaware of how detrimental their student loans are to their livelihood. 

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This is a song I am all too familiar with. A week after I said “I do” to my husband I walked into Money Management International and asked for help getting my credit on track. I was worse off than most with both credit and student loan debt.  My goal was to get my credit score back up so my husband and I could eventually buy a house. It took me five years and some belt tightening, but I was finally able to obtain a credit score that didn’t make me blush.

According to the Department of Education more than 40 percent of Americans who borrowed from the government’s student loan program are not making payments or are behind. In another study, 40 percent of millennials reported they don’t have a retirement income strategy in place and 57 percent report they haven’t begun saving yet.

To help the future of tomorrow get better at budgeting, paying off debt and saving, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips:

Be Precise with Budgets

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Your budget should include more than just rent, utilities, phone bill and insurance. Create a detailed list of the things you spend money on and things you would like to spend money on in the future. For example, be sure to put money away for clothes, haircuts, gas, groceries, medical, credit cards, entertainment and vacation. It might be scary to see your money quickly disappear when disseminated, but it will also leave you prepared when you start a new job and suddenly need a new suit and haircut.

Start Saving Now

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If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck it might be difficult to imagine putting money away into savings, but even a little bit counts. Start with the smallest amount you can manage and then slowly increase the number as you start to become more accustomed to living on a fixed income.

Get Debt Help

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If you need help consolidating your debt or creating payment plans remember there is help out there. And some of it is free. When I got married I was in the process of paying off two collection agencies. After speaking with a representative at MMI I got the amounts lowered and only had to send one check each month. Because I was able to consistently make payments I was able to pay off the debt in no time.

Be wary of someone offering to help you consolidate your debt for a “one-time fee.” Many nonprofit debt counseling agencies can you help for free.

To learn more about debt management visit bbb.org/credit-management.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Fall Marketing Ideas for Your Business

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Fall means falling leaves, plentiful pumpkins, longer nights and cooling weather, but it can also mean great marketing opportunities for local businesses. Make the most of the changing seasons with fall marketing that brings customers in during the lead-up to the holidays.

Here are ten ideas to get you started:

  1. Focus on Fall Themes: Decorate your business in traditional autumn colors, and spread that theme to your website, social media and printed ads. The reds, yellows and oranges of fall naturally command attention, so use the autumn palette to draw eyes toward specific items you want to promote in your store. Print seasonal shopping bags that spread your fall-themed message all around town.
  1. Celebrate the Classic Autumn Holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving are the two main holidays that fill the stretch between summer and Christmas season. Take advantage of the fact that these holidays are on customers’ minds by offering special promotions centered around Halloween and Thanksgiving themes. Offer trick-or-treating at your store on Halloween or give away special customer appreciation gifts at Thanksgiving time to create an instant holiday tie-in.
  1. Delve Into Lesser-Known Fall Holidays: Move beyond the holidays everyone knows and start making a point to promote lesser-known fall holidays such as National Coffee Day (September 29)and the end of Daylight Savings Time. If your business has a unique cultural angle, you might also want to introduce your community to related fall holidays from a different culture, such as the Chinese and Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival or the Hindu Festival of Lights.
  1. Make Up Your Own Fall Traditions: Instead of just jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon, you might consider coming up with your own fall-related themes that you can repeat every year. Temporarily add a seasonal apple-flavored product to your lineup, or start an annual tradition of handing out deep-discount coupons in the shape of fall leaves. Repeat the same promotion every year to build an association that customers start anticipating months in advance.
  1. Engage Customers with Athletics-Related Promotions: Fall is football season, so support your local professional, college and school teams with special promotions. Give special discounts based on wins or game scores so loyal fans associate you with victory, or offer a promotion that’s only available to people who show their game ticket stub or school ID.
  1. Create a Contest: Invite customers to enter a fall-themed contest with a gift certificate from your business as the prize. Halloween costume contests, seasonal coloring contests for kids and essay contests describing what the entrant is thankful for are some potential ideas you can use. Contests can be live at the store, or you can have people submit entries online.
  1. Bring Fun to Fall Festivals: From Oktoberfest to outdoor music events, local fall festivals are a great way to get your name out in the community. Sponsor a booth to sell your wares at festivals, or hand out promotional samples and coupons at events to generate interest with a huge pool of potential new customers.
  1. Share Seasonal Stories: Give the media fresh ideas during the often slow fall news cycle with press releases and story ideas tying your business into the season. Give interviews or post blog content teaching local residents about fall decorating, pumpkin carving, Thanksgiving cooking tips or seasonal home maintenance.
  1. Go Social with Posts About Fall: Spread the joy of autumn across all of your social media platforms with pins, posts and pictures that celebrate the sights of the season. Tie your seasonal contests into your social media by encouraging customers to post on your boards and share their own fall photos featuring your products. Award prizes for the best contributions or give rewards for user-generated pictures with the most shares and comments.
  1. Prepare Your Customers for the Upcoming Holidays: Fall is the lead-up to the busiest time of year for most businesses, so use it to help customers get ready for Christmas. Offer special sales and deals, such as buy-one-get-one promotions and buy-now-save-later coupons that invite people to shop early and to keep coming back as the holidays approach.

Fall can be a fantastic time to promote your business, and transitioning from sizzling summer specials to amazing autumn deals is easier than ever. Market smart during these often overlooked months to boost your business and reap the rewards all year long.

 

Why Your Business Website Needs Google Analytics

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You invested in a great website and spent time working with designers and web developers to truly capture your brand, but nothing has changed. Your traffic is stagnant, leads aren’t converting and sales aren’t increasing. Why?

In good times and bad, monitoring your website is a valuable way to determine performance, source traffic and receive feedback that can help you make wise business decisions. Whether you’re doing great or struggling to keep up and need to know why —the right analytics can make a huge difference.

The most popular free tracking opportunity for businesses of all sizes and industries is Google Analytics. It provides the opportunity to track many of the important metrics related to operating a successful website. With capabilities like determining traffic sources, calculating key performance indicators and providing insight into average duration and views per page, it’s easier than ever to monitor your site’s performance on the web.

Here’s why your business website needs Google Analytics:

Identify Traffic Sources

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Having traffic is a great start, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Where your traffic is coming from also makes a difference. Google Analytics can help you track your traffic sources, offering insight into what marketing is working and what marketing isn’t. It also tells you what most of your viewers are doing to get to your page.

This information can be extremely valuable in identifying weak spots in marketing and advertising that can be bolstered, successful areas that can be perpetuated and even the keywords most important to your operations.

Stay Up to Date on Google’s Changes

As all website owners know, Google is anything but consistent. With frequent algorithm changes that may or may not be announced in advance, or even announced at all, keeping up with Google is often an uphill battle.

Google Analytics makes things easier by helping you to identify what was working before that isn’t now, or what new requirements your site isn’t meeting. For example, if your formerly adequate mobile traffic plummeted overnight, it’s highly likely that Google made a change that’s negatively driving your performance. By understanding your positioning, it will be easy to make the changes necessary to maintain your position in the search engine results page.

Explore Mobile vs Desktop

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As Google’s Mobilegeddon update proved —mobile use matters. While desktop ranking was left alone, Google made changes to how mobile sites are ranked. This change boosted companies with mobile-specific or responsive web design and penalized those without.

Instead of assuming all is well, get the scoop with Google Analytics. You’ll be able to see where traffic is coming from across all devices. The information is beneficial to noting strengths and weaknesses across laptops, desktops and phones. Platform breakdown can also help identify areas of improvement, especially when users appear to favor different functionalities from desktop to mobile.

Learn What Your Readers Value

You know your site viewers are invested in what you have to offer, but what information means the most? Without knowing what pages, blog posts and product descriptions are hitting home, it’s hard to know what to prioritize when it comes to site design and product creation.

By analyzing metrics, like page visit duration, you can ascertain which posts and pages are successful and which ones fall short. This data can also help you to identify what visitors landed on your site and left right away and how many stayed to read, absorb and invest in what your company has to offer.

Keeping an eye on performance behind the scenes can be extremely valuable. By understanding more than what you see at the surface you can fine tune what works and tweak what doesn’t. With Google Analytics on your side, you can ensure your site will always stay at the top —no matter how the tides may shift.

Why Superb Photos Are Essential to E-Commerce Success

Written by Lance Trebesch, BBB Board Member and TicketPrinting.com CEO

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the September Torch Talk. We’ve all heard the saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” As far as e-commerce goes, while copy is essential, in truth it’s nothing without pictures. Quality images are what will ultimately boost conversion rates.  

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Before you head off to populate your site with pictures and wait for orders to roll in, there’s a catch. Low quality photos won’t do, and the images you use need to be unique to your business, engaging and relevant to the information being conveyed.

Here’s why – the world we live in today is, by and large, driven by visuals.

The quick scrolling we do on social media feeds is the same approach taken upon landing on a website. Visitors make a split-second decision whether your site is trustworthy, has what they are looking for, or is even remotely interesting. The images on your landing page, blog, and product pages need to catch attention, which means, upon further inspection, the pictures must make sense.

For example, if you sell all-natural dog treats and toys, but your site’s landing page has a lovely photograph of a forest, new visitors to your site will be at a loss. What does a forest have to do with dog treats and toys? Where are the dogs? The treats? The toys? Yes, it is all-natural, but the image provides no context. Before you know it, that potential customer has added to your bounce rate, which is not good for SEO. This is because the higher a bounce rate for a page, the less important that page becomes to search engines. So, not only did that picture of the forest cost you a sale, but over time it could affect future sales. A scary thought, and proof, incidentally, that if a tree falls in a forest it does indeed make a sound.

Products listed on your site also should be represented with great imagery. To borrow from my previous example, if you use the same, low-resolution dog toy image over and over, today’s consumer won’t stick around. What makes it special? Why should they buy this toy over another? Consumers want to be able to zoom and see alternate views and other contextual shots of the item. In short, they want to get a real ‘feel’ for the item you’re selling. Providing this visual information has the secondary effect of giving your site credibility, which in turn contributes to converting a casual visitor into a sale.

Essentially, shopping online should be as ‘real’ as possible. When browsing your e-commerce site, customers should get an immediate sense of what your business is about and what it is selling. Use pictures to build a relationship and connect with customers – sometimes the most powerful tools at our disposal happen to be the simplest.

Lance Trebesch

CEO

TicketPrinting.com

 

 

 

August Scams Roundup

Top Scams 2015

The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in August. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

Home Improvement Grant Scam

A woman in Anchorage reported her 80-year-old aunt was contacted through Facebook about applying for a home improvement grant. The woman states her aunt applied for a $30,000 grant and was told she needed to send money to cover taxes and fees. The woman sent a money order of $1,000 and then was asked to send more money. She has not been able to get her money returned to her.

Bad sale

An Anchorage man reported he purchased a sound system from someone for $300. The man claims he was shown an invoice slip and told there was a warranty with the purchase. He soon discovered the sound system was of poor quality. He has tried calling the seller, but has been unable to reach him.

IDAHO

Newspaper Scam

A Boise area woman reported she received a call from a woman asking her to renew her Idaho Statesman subscription. The woman states she was skeptical of the caller so she looked up her subscription and discovered it didn’t expire until February 2017.

Family Emergency Scam

A Nampa woman reports she was the target of the grandparent scam. She states she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson who told her he broke his nose after a drunk driving accident. She soon received another call from the “grandsons” attorney asking for $1,750 to post bail. He told the woman to get a MoneyGram from Walmart and send it to them. The woman did so, but the money did not go through. She soon realized the call was a scam. Fortunately, she was able to get her money back from MoneyGram.

MONTANA

Craigslist Scam

A Colstrip resident reports they listed household items on Craigslist and then were contacted by a buyer who sent a check for more than the agreed upon price. They were told to purchase a MoneyGram for the extra money and give it to the “mover” who was supposed to pick up the items. Fortunately, they never cashed the check.

OREGON

Charity Scam

A Beaverton resident reports someone came to their door accepting donations for “Something for Soldiers Sales, LLC.” After giving $68, they looked closer at the receipt and discovered the organization was not a 5013c nonprofit. Law Enforcement agencies have warned residents about this group.

DISH Network Imposter

A White City woman reported she lost $50 after someone impersonated a DISH Network employee. She states a woman came to her door pretending to be selling DISH Network services. She gave the woman a check for $50 for a one-time process fee and her credit card information. After handing over the money she requested the check not be cashed until the third of the next month, however it was cashed the next day.

WASHINGTON

Sweepstakes Scam

A Richland resident reported they received a letter from Liberty Financial Incorporated claiming they had won a second prize of $250,000. The letter included a check from Chase Bank for $3,650. They tell BBB they were asked to pay a $3,500 processing fee. They did not pay the fee.

Employment Scam

A Bellevue woman reports she was contacted by a man using the name “Mark Blackwell,” asking her to be his daughters tutor. The man said he was sending her a check with more than her fee and told her to cash $2,000 of it to give to his daughter’s nanny. She ceased communication with the man.

 

Fish and Wildlife Hack in Idaho and Oregon

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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Idaho Department of Fish and Game both reported there was “unauthorized access of the system” discovered around August 23. The data breaches are tied to Active Network, a company that owns and operates the licensing systems.

According to ODFW, the breach impacted records from before September 2007, for both resident and nonresident tags and licenses. Social Security numbers and credit card information wasn’t exposed, but information like driver’s license numbers, name, gender, date of birth, address, telephone and email were accessed, the site says.

Since the breach, license purchasing in both Oregon and Idaho has been limited as the departments ironed out the details. ODFW says licenses and tags may be purchased at their offices and hundreds of businesses statewide, and the department is updating its website regularly with information on alternative ways to apply for what you need this fall.

Active Network has said they will soon be contacting affected customers by mail. In the meantime, ODFW recommends license buyers assume their information was accessed and monitor their financial accounts and credit history for any signs of suspicious activity.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest suggests doing the following:

  • Check financial accounts. Look at your bank, credit and debit card statements for any charges that aren’t yours, and make sure you report fraud to your bank right away.
  • Check your credit. Go to annualcreditreport.com from a secure WiFi connection. You will need to enter your Social Security number, so don’t do this from a public computer or WiFi. Each of the credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, give you a free look at your credit report annually. You can check one today, one in four months, and the third four months later so you are regularly seeing activity. You are looking for anything on that report that isn’t yours, and once again, report fraud right away.

For more information on spotting and recovering from identity theft, visit our website, bbb.org/northwest.

5 Things That Make Exceptional Employees Stand out

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The lifeblood of any organization for better or worse runs through the group’s workforce, so identifying exceptional employees allows you the opportunity to nurture those seeds of their enthusiasm, energy, and drive to take maximum advantage of their potential. Building a stellar team does not materialize out of whole cloth, but rather is stitched together over time with the individual threads that your employees represent. Unfortunately, employee dissatisfaction often results when talents go under-utilized or unappreciated, so spotting the exceptional team member is the first job of the manager.

Standard interview questions and performance reviews do very little to single out the exceptional employee from the rest of the herd. For the managerial team looking to identify those candidates, it is always better to monitor daily attitudes and motivations of your employee over the quarterly review scores emerging from the human resources office. Keep an eye out for these five distinctive behavioral and performance indicators that indicate an exceptional employee.

1. View their Job Description as a starting point

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The exceptional employee views their job description as a mere starting point when it comes to taking on the daily challenges that any growing or established company might face on a day-to-day basis. Their primary goal is to get the job done when they see that their assistance will help get the project to completion. Once this behavioral pattern begins to assert itself, you know that you have a dedicated team member placing the organization’s goals above the petty complaints of employees who jealously guard their time behind the safety of their job description.

2. Quirky and Independent Personalities

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A quirky and independent personality is not only refreshing in the confines of the typical business environment, but its presence also signals the confidence of the owner because quirky personalities naturally tend to push the status quo in innovative directions while shaking up the “group think” that can fester around the boardroom table. Such a personality type looks at the world from a different angle than the employee sitting in the next cubical, and that altered perception helps fuel constructive attitudes throughout every office in the building. Conversely, the excellent employee also knows when to place those quirky traits in a drawer when the job at hand calls for pure reasoning and professionalism. In short, they know when it is time to play and when it is time to work.

3. Diplomacy and Tact

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It’s been noted that most people learn the basics of their social skills by the age of five, and it is as good a starting place as any when it comes to analyzing your employee’s ability to get along with supervisors, subordinates, and peer groups. The exceptional employee understands that social interaction goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of camaraderie that helps propel the organization’s goals. Free with praise, they offer congratulations to co-workers who have earned it, and are supportive to those in need of bolstering to complete their tasks. Identifying exceptional employees that practice these socially interactive skills is important because these actions serve to elevate the entire work staff and act as a marker of managerial talent.

4. Understand How to Read “the Room”

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The savvy employee is capable of “reading the room” and acting and thinking quickly on their feet regardless of the situation at hand. Team members that exhibit the ability to roll with the punches means that that employee can respond to a wide array of circumstances and that will prove an advantage for the entire organization. Utilizing their education, experience, intelligence, and talents, the exceptional employee stands out from the crowd on a daily basis.

5. Asks Questions and Willing to Explore

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The exceptional employee is not afraid to ask questions and explore options. Unfortunately, many team members are afraid to express themselves to the group as a whole and oftentimes even in private. Similarly, exceptional employees look at company policies and procedures with an eye toward improving the mousetrap that they inherited in an effort to make all aspects of the company’s systems more efficient.

Identifying and cultivating superior talent should be your first job in the managerial role, so look beyond the pencil and paper evaluations of the human resource department, and keep your eye on the day-to-day behavior that shows the true potential of your employees.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About BBB

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Better Business Bureau has been serving consumers and businesses for more than 100 years. That’s more than a century of helping to advance marketplace trust. While you may be familiar with our grading system, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about BBB. So let’s take a look at some of the services and missions we work at every day.

Here are five things you didn’t know about BBB:

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1. We are here for servicemembers and vets. 

The BBB Military Line is a consumer education program that offers a MobileMi$$ion app, which provides resources for vets, active duty and retired military personnel. The app is designed for transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families to help them navigate their finances during the shift from active duty to civilian life. This app provides access to educational activities, a financial mentor, and peer chat support on the go, wherever you are.

Want to speak to someone in person? Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest is available to give presentations to military personnel on scams and identity theft, wise buying, car shopping, buying a home, investing in higher education and much more. Contact our Marketplace Development Team at marketplace@thebbb.org.

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2. Request a Quote

This one is specific to Accredited Businesses only, but is important to note. Once businesses receive accreditation they can install the Request a Quote button on their BBB Business Review page so customers can quickly and easily ask for estimates, information or proposals from the business.

But wait, there’s more. If a customer is looking for a bid, but doesn’t know which company to go with, they can send requests to multiple companies. Find out more at www.bbb.org/northwest/quote.

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3. Serve as mediators. 

BBB has been helping resolve disputes between businesses and consumers for more than a century and whether your company is a small local firm or large national corporation, we are here to share our expertise and experience with you and your customers. A panel of approximately 1,000 professional arbitrators–predominantly attorneys–partner with the BBB system to provide arbitration hearings that are local and yet consistent with overall program mandates. The programs are developed for specific industries, including automotive, telecommunication and moving and storage. This service helps both businesses and customers save time and money when handling legal issues.

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4. We are looking out for our future.   

Teenagers are making economic decisions every day and with advances in technology they are doing a lot of it online. But who is educating them on how to be smart consumers? Our Marketplace Development Team visits high schools across the northwest educating our youth about identity theft, social media safety, scholarships and financial aid. They can come out to your organization and present on these topics. Locally, we host a $10,000 scholarship contest for a high school senior who personifies high ethics, as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic accomplishments.

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5. We investigate scams.

BBB Scam Tracker provides consumers across North America with a place to report scams and fraud and to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities. All 112 BBBs operating in Canada and the United States are collecting information from consumers and processing data, which is shared with law enforcement agencies for use in identifying and prosecuting scammers. Go to bbb.org/scamtracker to see the interactive map and see what scams are happening in your area.

This is just a fraction of the types of services BBB offers. To learn more visit bbb.org/northwest today.

6 Tips to Drive More Traffic to Your Business’ Blog

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Blogging is a powerful, cost-effective marketing tool that can help you engage with your customers, increase conversions rates, and establish your reputation as a creditable source of information among both your clients and your peers.

Of course, the impact your business blog has on your bottom line is directly linked to both the volume and type of traffic it generates for your website. If your online content isn’t actually reaching your target audience, you’ll be missing out on the wealth of opportunities that blogging offers your business.

Here’s what you can do to drive more traffic to your business’ blog:

Know Your Target Audience

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In order to create blog content that reaches the right audience it’s important to understand exactly who you’re hoping will read your blog. Otherwise you could wind up writing a blog that fails to engage your ‘target market’.

Start by developing a persona – a description of your ‘ideal’ blog reader that covers basics like their age, location, level of education, and income. Consider what your business can offer this person, and think about what problems you, and your company, can help them solve.

This information will help guide the development of your blog content, and increase the odds that your blog will actually reach your target audience.

Blog Frequently

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! all use a semi-secretive algorithm to determine what results users see when they’re looking for online content. While the actual formulas that the search engines use to rank websites are a closely-guarded secret, companies like Google have made it clear that websites with fresh, user-friendly content, like regularly-updated blogs, will be rewarded with higher search engine results rankings.

Share On Social Media

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Sharing your blog posts through social media is a quick and effective way to boost traffic to your website. Publish links to your latest blog on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and be sure to make it easy for your readers to share posts by integrating social media ‘widgets’ in your content.

Diversify Your Content 

In the early days of business blogging posts were exclusively text-based. Thanks to the development of faster Internet services and computers, bloggers can now integrate both still images and videos into their posts, providing users with an engaging experience that’s both informative and entertaining. Consider diversifying your blog content by adding infographics, photos, Vine loops and tutorial videos to boost your audience and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Keep It Brief

Internet users’ attention spans are notoriously short – a fact that’s important to keep in mind when developing your blog posts. Aim to create blog content that’s 750 words or less. Otherwise you run the risk of having your readers tune out before they’ve reached the end of the article. Be sure to break the content up into small, scan-able ‘chunks’ that are easier to read than a large ‘blob’ of text, especially if your audience accesses your blog via a mobile device.

Engage Your Audience 

When crafting content for your business’ blog, aim to use a tone that reflects the personality of your organization. If your brand is light and fun, make sure that’s accurately portrayed in your blog posts (while making sure to respect social norms and boundaries).

You should also focus on providing value to your audience – give them a reason to ‘like’, ‘share’ and return to your blog by posting insider information, tutorials, or answers to frequently-asked questions.

Remember that your business’ blog can be a great, low-cost way to promote your enterprise, but only if you’re able to generate and retain traffic to your website.