Archives for posts with tag: Better Business Bureau

Scammers are using LinkedIn to get consumers’ money and/or personal information. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has published an alert about this latest scam (www.bbb.org/scamtips; “Scammers Use Bogus Connection Requests on LinkedIn”).

How does this work? Per the BBB blog, there are several variations with all of them coming via a LinkedIn message that looks and sounds as if it’s from a legitimate recruiter. The scammer might have even created a legitimate looking LinkedIn profile. In one version, the scam message asks the recipient to fill out an online job application that could even ask for an uploaded resume or other personal information (e.g., SSN, address). Another version asks the recipient to respond with an instantaneous “you’re hired” message popping up and asking the recipient to pay first for training and/or other expenses before the “official” job offer is sent.

These types of overtures are appealing, particularly in a tough job market. But don’t fall for it or the only result could be lost money and potential identity theft.

My “scam filter” is picking up more and more scam emails which is sadly typical for this time of year.  As I’ve written about before, the scammers know consumers are rushed during the holidays and they count on consumers not having the time to check out the validity of the rush of incoming emails.

So this is just a reminder to try and be extra alert during this holiday season.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has an article that nicely summarizes the steps consumers can take to protect themselves.  They range from “watch your packages” to “check out a new company or merchant” with whom a consumer might be dealing for the first time.  As for the latter, the BBB article lists the link to their reviews so that consumers can see if a company or merchant is legitimate.

The BBB article is titled “Santa Knows Who’s Naughty and Nice, and So Does BBB”.  It can be found at: bbb.org and is a handy guide — it’s succinct enough to be read quickly yet provides just the kind of “reminders” so that consumers can try and avoid being scammed throughout the year but especially during the holidays.

It hasn’t taken scammers long to create more havoc for consumers following the breach of the Target point-of-sale system.  What’s the latest?  Phony emails, text messages and phone calls pretending to be from companies wanting to help consumers whose credit and debit cards were compromised.

How does the scam work?  As outlined recently by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the scam comes in multiple versions (www.bbb.org; “Watch for Scams Following Target Data Breach”, January 3, 2014).

In the text message version, the consumer gets a text alleging it’s from the consumer’s credit card company.  The message says the consumer’s credit card’s been blocked in response to fraudulent transactions that were spotted following the Target breach.  A phone number’s included in the text and the consumer’s supposed to call that number to verify his account information.  The text might seem legitimate but it’s not; consumers should not call the number as it’s a ploy to get card as well as other personal information.

BBB describes the call version as followers: the consumer gets a call from the scammer who’s claiming to represent Target. The scammer asks for the consumer’s name, address, SSN and other personal information in order to supposedly see if the consumer’s credit or debit card is on the list of cards compromised in the breach.

What can consumers do to protect themselves against post-Target breach scams?  In addition to the steps I’ve recommended in prior blogs, read the BBB guidance (“BBB’s Suggestions for Target Customers”; http://www.bbb.org) which offers very good advice.  I’ve added some additional ideas to the following BBB advice:

  1. Go to the official Target website: here’s where consumers can find the official information and communications from Target (Target.com/paymentcardresponse);
  2. Don’t be fooled by appearances: scammers are using increasingly sophisticated technology to make their scam messages look very close to those from the legitimate, reputable company or source; I suggest that consumers always look at the incoming .url since the scam message will often (but not always) have one that’s different from the .url of the legitimate company ;
  3. Don’t open the links or attachments: check the Target website to see if they’re sending emails to affected consumers; otherwise, as I’ve noted in prior blogs, consumers opening links or attachments in unexpected emails could be unwittingly downloading malware; and
  4. Read the message carefully: typos and poor or incorrect grammar are “red flags” and absolute giveaways that the message is from a scammer and not a corporation.

Consumers whose cards were compromised cannot, unfortunately, relax just yet.  They need to stay alert for more scammers trying to take advantage of the Target data breach.

There is nothing scammers and thieves like more than a headline grabbing event.  So it should come as no surprise that scammers are already out to try and take advantage of consumers’ interest in the Royal Birth.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has just posted a very helpful blog warning about one scam seeking to steal consumers’ personal and financial information.

The BBB blog is titled “Royal Birth Triggers Social Media Scams” (www.bbb.org; under “Consumer News”; July 23rd).  BBB uses an example explaining how the scam will operate on Facebook.  However, the BBB blog also warns the scam isn’t limited to Facebook and could be spread via similar links on Twitter, other social media or in an email.

Here’s how BBB explains the scam as it happens on Facebook:

  1. A Facebook friend “likes” an “exclusive” video link that claims to be of footage not being carried by any media outlet;
  2. The link is to a 3rd party website that will be unfamiliar;
  3. The link has a “pop up” instructing the viewer that he has to “update your video player” before being able to see the video clip;
  4. Hitting “ok” results in downloading a virus onto your computer — a virus that will scan your machine for banking and other personal information.

Consumers need to know about these “exclusive video link” Royal Birth scams to avoid becoming identity theft victims. The BBB blog also has informative tips so consumers can protect themselves about these “click bait” scams.  Take the time to read the BBB blog so you can protect yourself as well as warn your family and friends.

It almost seems like a riddle.  When is a “Do Not Call” call a call that you shouldn’t take?  When it’s a scammer trying to scam a consumer out of her or his personal information.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued an alert about this latest scam, which can come in several variations (scamalert@council.bbb.org; “Phony Officials Trick Consumers into “Verifying” Information on Do Not Call Registry”).

Here’s how the scam works:

  • You get a phone call from someone claiming to be a representative of the National Do Not Call Registry (Registry), or from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or from the Canadian National Do Not Call List;
  • The caller might ask you to sign up for the Registry; or confirm personal information if you say you’re already signed up; or might offer you a chance to register your phone number;
  • The caller says all you need to do is provide your name, address and SSN.

And how should you respond? Hang up  if it’s a live call and do not call back any number left on a message!

Here are additional very helpful tips from the BBB alert:

  • FTC and staff members from the National Registry do not call consumers;
  • There’s no “expiration date” for the Registry; once a consumer’s listed a phone number (or numbers) then they’re set;
  • Adding another phone number can be done either by going to the Registry’s website (www.Donotcall.gov) or by calling the toll-free number from the phone number you want to register (1-888-382-1222); and
  • Consumers can verify if the phone number they’ve registered at that feature on the Registry’s website.

I’ve gone to an FTC website (www.consumer.ftc.gov) and looked at the list of  38 “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs).  The FAQs cover a range of issues that consumers might have about the “Do Not Call” Registry.

The real “Do Not Call” Registry is a help to consumers.  The only “help” the scammers want is to help themselves to your personal information for any number of criminal uses (e.g., identity theft).

So do hang up and don’t help them.

Yes, there are no limits to the online scams thieves can create.  The latest one is very slick as it’s an email that will show up on your work computer and even appear to be from someone within your office or organization.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued an alert about this scam today (www.scamalert@council.bbb.org; “Email with “Visual Voicemail Have Scam Attached”).

How does it work?  Like this:

  • You get an email that looks as if it’s from Microsoft Outlook with the tag line reading on “Behalf of Anonymous Caller”;
  • The email will list a number of URLs and phone numbers;
  • BBB reports having seen emails that have an “Email ID” that looks as if its being sent from an email address from within your workplace;
  • It directs you to open an attachment that looks as if it will be a “visual voicemail” because it will appear to be a “.wav audio file” attachment;
  • DO NOT OPEN THIS ATTACHMENT!

The attachment is not, of course, a “visual voicemail.”  It’s an HTML link that will redirect you to a malicious website — a site that might scan your computer for any work related financial and/or other sensitive personal information you’ve stored on your computer.

The BBB article has an excellent screen shot of one of these scam emails.  As they note in their alert, these scams can and do change frequently so be aware and very careful.

I want to share an important alert from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about some election year scams.  BBB is reporting that scammers have found new ways to try and profit from our being civic minded.  You might not fall victim to either of the scams but please let others know about them.

So here’s the first scam BBB reported.  Scammers are calling people saying that they’re offering a “free cruise” if the person will take a political survey.  Of course, there’s no “free” anything at the end of the survey except for the personal financial information unsuspecting people will be giving the scammers.  Why?  Because at the end of the call the scammer says that the person has to provide either a credit or debit card number to cover the “port fees” and any taxes associated with the cruise prize.  Anyone who hesitates to do so is then subjected to pressure tactics and the lie that the deal is only good for this call and then expires.

Here’s the second scam.  Scammers will call saying they’re doing fundraising for a political campaign.  The scammers are smart so their pitch will sound legitimate. Let’s say you want to check out whether this is really a legitimate campaign fundraising call so you ask for a callback number.  That’s always a good protective step.  However, as BBB notes, not necessarily in this case since the scammers know people do this.  The number you might be given won’t, of course, be for a legitimate campaign staff but for one of their other scammers.

Equally important, the scammer will say that they need to confirm your eligibility to vote.  What do they say they need to do so?  If you guessed personal and/or financial information you’re absolutely right!  The scammer asks for your credit card or Social Security Number to do so.  If you’re registered to vote, your respective State and/or county has that information.  You would not be contacted by phone or email from either asking you to confirm your voter eligibility status.

The BBB article has warnings about other scams including the one about which I wrote previously (i.e., that the President will pay your utility bills).  Their article can be found on their website as follows: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/Dont-Let-Election-Scammers-Count-on-Your-Support-This-Election-Season-36146.

Don’t provide any of this information under either of the above scam scenarios.  These types of election year scams will only increase and the scammers want to do everything they can to profit from our good intentions.

Scammers know that invoking the name of well-known businesses and organizations makes their scams seem more legitimate.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued an alert that their good name is now being used in a fake gift card scam.  The only “gift” involved in this scam is the “gift” of personal information unwary consumers will give the thieves.

Here’s how it works.  The email comes to the consumer  addressed in the consumer’s first name (“Dear John”).   The email’s signed with the first name of a fake customer service representation. The email message then says:

  1. BBB has issued a $1000.00 Visa gift card to the consumer;
  2. The gift card is free of charge;
  3. There is a “valid until” date by which the consumer has to claim the card;
  4. The consumer needs to go to the link in the email to provide the needed information;
  5. At the link, the consumer is told he or she has to provide  the following information to get the card: name, age, email address, cell phone number and the address to which the consumer wants the gift card mailed.

BBB is the latest organization whose name has been used for this scam.  Similar gift card scams have been run falsely claiming that Best Buy, or Wal-Mart or Target is the business issuing the free gift cards.

The email has the feel of a legitimate offer since it’s addressed using the consumer’s first name.  This scam is sent from a variety of email addresses and contains different links but the message used for the scams is always some variation of the above points.

This is another example of “if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true.”  The BBB alert can be found at consumertips@council.bbb.org (“New Gift Card Spam Emails Use BBB Name”).

I’ve been writing the last few days about the hackers who got Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account information.  I’ve underscored the need to take the TSP up on their offer of free credit reporting.

But now I’ve got a “credit report” alert to share with you.  This is an important alert for all of us but especially if you get one of the TSP letters.  I don’t want people who get a TSP letter to think that they’ve already —somehow —already signed up for credit reports.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has reported that consumers need to carefully review their credit and/or debit card statements for a credit report charge.  You don’t remember requesting a report but the charge will look as if it’s from a legitimate credit reporting company —such as Experian, or Consumerinfo.com or Creditreport.com.  So you could think that you’ve forgotten that you’d requested a credit report.

BBB reports that people who called Experian discovered that their card had been used to buy a credit report for someone else; the unauthorized charge, BBB reports, likely resulted from some type of security breach.  The BBB’s article can be found at FraudAvengers.com (“FRAUD ALERT: Watch Out for Unauthorized Charges for Credit Reports.”)

What do you do if you find such an unauthorized charge?  Here’s what BBB recommends:

  1. If the charge is for Experian, Consumerinfo.com or Creditreport.com: call the phone number listed next to the merchant’s name on your statement.  The representative will ask for your name and card number.  If those aren’t the same as on the requested report, you should get a refund within 7 to 14 days.
  2. Immediately call the issuer of the credit or debit card that was used.  Report the misuse and ask for a new card.
  3. Report your incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via their ID Theft Clearinghouse (www. ftc.gov/idtheft).  Doing so will provide the FTC with needed information about this scam.  The FTC will then be able to see if patterns emerge about the unauthorized transactions and then possibly investigate the source of the data breach.

The thieves who stole the credit and debit card information are using an unfortunately very clever scheme.  We want to protect our credit ratings so they’re counting on us not to question a charge for a credit report.  Don’t let them get away with this — if you see an unauthorized charge, follow the BBB’s steps ASAP.

It’s always the fine print that trips us up.  Then it’s only belatedly we find out that the “free trials” really aren’t so free.  That’s one of the reasons I wrote yesterday (April 18th) about the Federal Trade Commission’s settlement with Green Millionaire LLC (see, “FTC Halts “Free Gas for Life” False Claims -$2 Million for Consumer Refunds”).  We sometimes only learn that we unintentionally “ordered” the additional products or services when we see new credit card charges or bank account debits.

So how does this happen?  More importantly, how can you protect yourself and your credit and debit card private financial information?

Here are 10 tips for avoiding the “free trial” traps:

  1. All “free trials” end at some point.  That may be an obvious point but it won’t be from the “big print”/easily readable sections of the ad or enrollment form (online or in print).  So keep that foremost in mind when thinking about one of these offers.
  2. Read the really fine print.  See “Tip #1.”  You need to know all about the offer before signing up and the most important information might mean reading way down to the small print.
  3. Do your own “due diligence”.  Take the time to go online and see if others have complained, or complimented,  the company and the product or service. Other people’s experiences could be a great source of information to warn you about other “traps” they’ve encountered.
  4. Offer’s Terms and Conditions.  These are key — you need to know when the “free trial” ends and how to cancel.  This is true for any offer (online, in print, on TV, radio).  “Red flag” warning signs are if you can’t find them or if they’re so complicated to understand — this should make you stop from signing up and giving over your private financial information.
  5. Who Really Is Behind the Offer. Try and figure out who really is making the offer.  The offer might actually be coming from a different company or person than the one that’s showing online.
  6. Pre-Checked Boxes. Beware! See if there are already pre-checked boxes since leaving these pre-checked could mean you’re giving the company permission to continue the offer past the end of the “free trial” period — and now you’ll be charged for the product or service.
  7. Mark Your Calendars.  Remember Tip #1!  If you go ahead with the offer, mark your calendars, and set alerts, with the date on which you’ve got to send in your cancellation (assuming you want to do so).  If the “free trial” end date passes without you notifying the company, then you’ll likely be paying for more products and ongoing charges.
  8. Cancellation Terms. Make sure to find out how to cancel future product shipments or services.  See the time specified for doing so and whether you’ll be obligated to pay for any future shipments post cancellation.
  9. Credit and Debit Card Statements. Read them to see if there are charges for products or services you didn’t order or thought you’d canceled.
  10. Dispute and Complain.  If you are wrongly charged, you’ve got several resources.  First, contact the company to see if you can get the problem handled.  If that doesn’t work, contact your credit card company, tell them you’re disputing the charge and ask to have the charge reversed.  Also, you can file a report with the FTC (www.ftc.gov/complaint); with your local consumer protection agency (which can be found at consumer action.gov); or with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

I’m not saying don’t try “free trials” — just follow these “10 tips” so the “free trial” is on your terms.