Weekly Feature



2014-04-03 / Business

BBB warns of top scams to avoid

Chances are good that at one point you’ll have a run-in with a scammer. It might be a phishing email asking you to click on a link, a phone call telling you your computer has been compromised or a contractor who shows up at your door ready to pave your driveway.

Understanding what makes a consumer fall for a scam can help you avoid falling for the next scam that comes along.

There are common do’s and don’ts that savvy consumers keep in mind:

• Don’t take someone at his word. Consumers should do their homework, ask questions, look for experience and verify licenses.

• Do check with BBB.

• Do take your time. A good deal today will be there tomorrow.

• Don’t act impulsively.

• Don’t be afraid to be rude. In certain situations, it is OK to hang up the phone or shut the door on people who may be trying to scam you.

• Do not use the same password for every account.

Here are some top scams for BBB serving Upstate New York in 2013:

• Microsoft/computer scams: A caller claims to be from Microsoft or a representative from another computer software company. The caller offers to solve a computer problem or sell a software license in an effort to gain remote control of the consumer’s computer and later requests a fee for service. Always check out a company first and hire only trusted repair businesses. Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls for computer help.

• Grant scams: Consumers report unsolicited phone calls notifying they won a grant but had to pay a fee in order to collect it. Grants do not have to be repaid; thus there is no need to use the word free. Organizations do not usually give out grants for personal debt consolidation or to pay for other personal needs. Grants are usually given only to serve a social good, such as bringing jobs to an area, training underemployed youth or preserving history.

• Medical alert scams: With promises of a free medical alert system, this scam targets senior citizens and caretakers. It claims to offer a system free of charge because a family member or a friend already paid for it. In these cases, the senior citizen or the caretaker is asked to give bank account information to verify their identity, and, as a result, many were charged a $35 service fee and had trouble getting refunded.

• Phony directory scams: Scammers make cold calls to offices, often small businesses or churches. They ask the person answering to confirm the address, telephone number and other information, claiming that it’s for an existing company listing in the yellow pages or a similar business directory. The scammers then fire off a rapid series of questions they may record to verify your purchase when a bill arrives a few weeks later. The scam works because scammers convince the person who picks up the phone that they’re just verifying an arrangement the company already has with the directory.

• Reseller scams: Scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers into shipping goods without receiving payment on websites such as eBay or Craigslist. The buyer will claim it’s an emergency and will ask the seller to ship the same day. The seller will receive an email that looks like it’s from PayPal, when in fact it is a fake. Before shipping anything, confirm with PayPal that payment for the item was sent.

• Casting call scams: Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts looking for individuals to cast. They use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try out for parts that don’t exist. The information provided on application can also be everything a scammer needs for identity theft.

• Affordable Care Act scams: Scammers are using the Affordable Care Act as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Scammers call, claiming to be from the federal government, saying that the would-be victim needs a new insurance card or Medicare card. However, before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information. Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank’s routing number and ask you to provide your account number, or they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information. Sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft.

For more information, visit bbb.org and www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureauofUpstateNY.

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