BBB serving Vancouver Island is warning consumers to use caution when hiring third-parties to assist with filling out and submitting applications for government services, grants and loans.
A variety of different organizations and businesses offer “pay-for” services to assist people with filling out applications for disability grants, passports applications, loans and debt consolidation, as well as other government services. While many of these organizations and business are legitimate service providers, there are also many scam artists claiming to provide similar services and targeting unsuspecting victims.
Understand the service. Legitimate “for-a-fee” application completion service providers typically charge money to assist customers in ensuring that their applications are filled out in full and submitted properly, in a timely fashion. Such services are usually intended to make the application process run smoothly for those with language barriers, disabilities, or a general lack of time. Before hiring such agents, it is vital that you weigh the costs versus benefits and clearly understand the specific services you are receiving.
Not all third-party service providers are reputable. Before handing over money or private personal information go to bbb.org to look up the company’s BBB Business Review. Ask the service provider for multiple references and be sure to follow up. Ensure the service provider has the required credentials (if any) to assist you, and ask them for proof of their trustworthiness. When possible look for BBB Accredited Businesses or Charities to assist you.
Don’t assume you have to pay. While it may seem convenient to be able to hire a third-party to assist with filling out an application, don’t assume that paying for this service is your only option. Most government agencies, banks and many non-profit organizations offer free services to assist you with filling out applications.
Watch for red-flags. You are ultimately responsible and liable for the information submitted on your application form. Be wary of service providers that are encouraging you to lie or fake information in order to complete your application.
Don’t fall for too-good-to be true promises. Don’t fall for promises of 100% guarantees or faster application processing times. Service providers may be able to make the process seem easier, but they cannot guarantee a specific outcome.
Find out about follow up services. Third-party application service providers typically do not assume liability for any errors or omissions that result in your application being considered incomplete or rejected. What happens after your application has been submitted? Will the service provider assist you if there are any errors or follow up required? Make sure you understand the extent of their services and what you are personally responsible for during the application process.
Know which fees you should and should not have to pay for. There are some fees that you should never have to pay, especially up front. For example, when it comes to loan/debit consolidation you should not have to pay up front for processing fees, insurance, legal fees etc. This cost is typically rolled into your overall total loan.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud or identity theft be sure to contact your local police, financial institutions and inform your local BBB so we can help spread the word and protect others.