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IN MEASURING LONGEVITY, IT'S THE BUSINESS, NOT THE OWNER

Q: I'm sending you copies of two advertisements by businesses claiming to be in business for 30 years. I've patronized both.

Based on my personal experiences with them, I don't believe either one has been in business that long.

How are businesses allowed to make these false statements?

Robert Alexander

A: It's interesting that your only complaints against the businesses seem to be the length of time they claim to be in operation.

I checked the incorporation records of both by going to the Florida Division of Corporations Web site at www.sunbiz.org/search.html.

Business A incorporated in 1981, three years shy of the 30-year mark. There's a good chance its owners are just rounding up.

Business B didn't incorporate until 2003 under current ownership. I wasn't able to trace the former owners back far enough to determine their original incorporation. That might prove your point, taken at face value. Except for one thing.

A business' longevity doesn't depend on who owns it. It depends on how long the business entity remains the same.

Let's say John Smith opens John's Hardware in 1930. He sells it to Bob Johnson in 1952 and Bob sells it to Tom Jones in 1970. The owners have changed, but not the name. So, John's Hardware has been in business 78 years.

A customer may find this to be nothing more than semantics. If the duration of ownership is of particular importance, ask for clarification.

Grandkid calls, needs money wired right away? Beware

The Better Business Bureau announced the increasing popularity of a scam originating in Canada targeting grandparents.

Generally, the scammers dial randomly until they get someone they believe to be a senior on the line. Then they pretend to be a grandchild traveling in Canada, who has been arrested or in a car accident.

They ask the grandparent to wire money, usually a few thousand dollars, to post bail or pay for damages.

Many seniors have reported the scam without falling prey to it, but others have been victimized. One well-meaning grandmother sent $15,000, thinking she was helping a grandchild who had been in an auto accident, the BBB reported.

"The key to avoiding this scam is to remain calm despite the 'emergency' nature of the call," said Steve Cox, BBB spokesman.

"Too often people are allowing themselves to get caught up in the false sense of urgency and they end up making emotional, instead of logical, decisions."

A request to send money through MoneyGram or Western Union is definitely a red flag since wire transfers are very difficult to trace.

If you receive a call of this nature, phone your grandchild or another family member directly to verify the situation.

Then report the incident to the Florida Attorney General's office by calling toll-free 1-866-966-7226 or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre's PhoneBusters hotline at toll-free 1-888-495-8501.

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