BBB warns about red flags to spot a rip-off

If you are worried you've been the victim of a scam, always check the Better Business Bureau's website.
If you are worried you've been the victim of a scam, always check the Better Business Bureau's website.

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - With the recent investigation of a man accused of running a fake addiction rehab facility in North Myrtle Beach, there are ways for you to research a business before handing over your hard-earned money.

North Myrtle Beach Police say their investigation into Clayton White started when the landlord called them. White is accused of falsely claiming to be a professional counselor and distributing prescription drugs. Investigators believe he took thousands of dollars from people and never provided real treatments. Officials say White had similar facilities in other parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

"I know if I thought something was wrong with my children and I thought I'd found the answer, and this person sounded like he had all the answers, I'd fall for it," says Kathy Graham, the President/CEO of the BBB of Coastal Carolina. "Because my kids are very important to me. And that's what happened to these unfortunate victims -- is they cared so much, they were willing to do anything to help their child. And he put up the phony good front and got away with it," says Graham.

The thought of getting taken advantage of when you're searching for a drug rehab program for a loved one is probably the last thing on someone's mind. And these rehab centers are expensive, so there's a lot of money on the line. When there's a lot at stake and you're emotionally invested in it, that's where scammers will target you. And the BBB says scammers will especially target soldiers, seniors, and low-income households. But there are two main things you should look for before enrolling or paying: licensing and accreditation.

First, check with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, or LLR. On the website, you simply type in the person's name and it'll show you if that person is licensed or if those licenses are up to date or inactive. In White's case, the LLR shows he is not licensed in any way to run a drug rehab facility or provide counseling.

Second, always check the Better Business Bureau's website. Type in the business' name and it'll show you if they are registered with the BBB, what their ranking is, and if there are any complaints against them. Once again, for White there are zero entries when it comes to the fake rehab facility Oceanside Recovery for Men.

If you do unknowingly fall for a scam, there are still red flags that can be your cue to bail out and salvage as much money as you can. First, if someone is pushing or pressuring you to make a quick decision, that is a warning sign. Also, if someone wants your payment in cash only or the whole amount up front, the best advice is to run. If you pay in cash and it turns out to be a scam, it's very unlikely you'll get any of that back. Finally, if you have any gut feelings that something isn't right, the BBB says you need to learn to trust your instincts.

"A lot of times your instincts will tell you what's right. And then these artists, if you will, will talk you out of your own instincts. And there's your other red flag. If you find that something is just not legitimate, something just doesn't feel right, that's when you call the BBB," says Graham.

Once you do call the BBB, they will immediately open a case and investigate with local and federal law enforcement. And the BBB asks that if you do get scammed, do not get embarrassed and try to hide what happened. The only way they can stop these crooks from scamming the next person, is by hearing from you. And if the BBB doesn't have the answer, they will put you in touch with someone who does.

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