Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire




BBB warns of prize scam

Consumers are warned to stay away from a phony prize solicitation that asks people to wire $4,500 to claim their payout, but delivers nothing, the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii said.

In the scam, consumers receive letters from International Payout Services saying they have won a large amount of money. A fake cashier's check is included with the letter, ostensibly to help pay fees associated with claiming the money. Consumers are told they will receive the rest of their winnings after they wire funds. The cashier's check ultimately bounces and no winnings are ever received.

The solicitation appears to originate in Canada, and operates under several names, the Better Business Bureau said.

HMSA plans get accreditation

Six Hawaii Medical Service Association health plans have received the highest levels of accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, HMSA said yesterday.

The distinction means HMSA's health plans are among the best in the nation, the insurer said. The quality assurance committee conducts on-site surveys every three years to see if plans measure up.

Ag award nominees sought

Nominations are due Sept. 15 for the Hawaii Agricultural Awards, which will be presented at the Hawaii Agricultural Conference 2004 on Oct. 21.

The awards seek to recognize contributions to the local agriculture industry. Forms are available by visiting the conference's Web site at

Yahoo starts local search engine

Internet giant Yahoo Inc. is unveiling a new search site that promises to provide a more precise guide to neighborhood businesses, making the latest in a series of attempts to improve the World Wide Web's focus on local information.

California-based Yahoo is touting the site,, as a major leap ahead in an industrywide effort to fine tune online search engines so they do a better job finding things closer to home.

"We think this is a first product that crystallizes the power of local search," said Paul Levine, who directs Yahoo's push into local search.

Yahoo launched the site late yesterday on a test basis, meaning the company might revise some features based on feedback. The local search site represents another bit of one-upmanship in Yahoo's intensifying rivalry with Google, which introduced a similar product in March.



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