SCAMS According to the Better Business Bureau the following are the Top Scams of 2013. ADVERTISING TROLLS Consumers posting ads to free online listings like Craigslist to sell a vehicle are the target of unlicensed telemarketing companies. These companies are trolling through online ads to find someone to make a quick buck from. Companies often guarantee to sell vehicles quickly and promise a money-back guarantee. However, these guaranteed vehicle brokers rarely sell your vehicle, rarely provide refunds, and only post your own ad to other free online listings - charging you a $500 fee for things you probably could do yourself for free. Don’t let promises of guaranteed sales persuade you into a costly ad. Never give into verbal promises, and do not provide credit card information until you have a contract that lays out all the terms and conditions. Check the company out on www.bbb.org.
ONLINE ROMANCE SCAMS You meet the person virtually through a social networking or dating site. Your online romance scammer builds a relationship, sometimes spending several months in building a rapport online with the intention of making you feel that you are in a romantic relationship. The person you met online turns out to be criminal who typically says that they are in a faraway country and that they eventually want to meet the victim in person. Around this time, the criminal will note that they can’t afford to travel and will seek assistance from you in covering travel costs. Sometimes there’s an emergency, a sick family member for example, and that they need financial help from you to visit the sick individual. Of course, the requests for help are all a scam and the money wired by the victim, often in very large amounts, is now in the hands of the criminal. Warning signs of a romance gone wrong: Someone has claimed to have fallen in love with you quickly. That person wants to immediately leave the dating site to use instant messaging or email. They claim to be from the U.S. or Canada but they are working overseas. They’ve asked you for money or to cash a check. They are coming to visit you soon but an event prevents them from visiting. They have no close family or friends to turn to when they need help.
INTERNET INVESTMENT FRAUD Online financial fraudsters send e-mail spam, or they approach you on a social media website or in a web forum. An internet advertisement may also lead you to a website, designed to gather your personal information, which they will use to approach you directly or to steal your identity. Things to remember: Don’t expect to get rich quick. Be careful with your personal information. Don’t be lured by claims of ‘insider information’. Delete and block spam emails. Do your own research. Make sure you get all the information you need before you invest (don’t be rushed into an investment). Keep printed copies of all correspondence and investment information.
AFFINITY FRAUD When a scam artist targets a group of people who know each other, it is called an affinity fraud. The investment schemes they promote may change or vary over time, but the methods they use to target groups are often the same. To be successful, scam artists need to earn the trust of an influential person in a group, family, or workplace. Once they establish this bond (and this can take time), they use this connection to get their hands on the money of other people in the group. In some cases, they may even pay the influencer to help them out, never telling the person that the investment is really a scam. Warning signs include: A new group member starts talking about wealth-building investments. The person pitching the investment uses your ethnicity, religion, occupation, or anything else they claim to have in common with you to gain your trust. Request to keep quiet about the investment because it is exclusive or only available to ‘those in the know.’ Go to: www.investright.org, to learn more investment red flags.
CURBERS Curbers, or unlicensed used-car “traffickers,” often acquire junk cars and then sell them from parking lots or curbsides. They advertise through local newspapers and online ads. Later, the used car you bought privately may turn out to have a lien against it, the VIN (vehicle identification number) number switched, or the odometer rolled back. In some cases, the car turns out to be stolen. Spot a curber when they have the same phone number listed for many cars and asks, “Which car?” when you call. The price seems too good to be true. The person is selling for a friend or has a sad story, and tries to rush you into buying. A curber will not meet at their home and insists on cash. Also, look to see if the name or location on the vehicle documents does not match the curber’s ID. Be wary of any person who wants you to lie on the transfer form. Report the curber and find a licensed dealer at www.vehiclesalesauthority.com.
ROGUE DOOR TO DOOR CONTRACTORS While some door to door sales have legitimate offers for you, beware of the rogue door to door operators who come unsolicited and promise deals that are too good to be true. These types of offers include, a deal to seal or repave your driveway, a roofer with left over material from a previous job, a furnace repair that you didn’t schedule or a gas fireplace “inspection”. These fraudulent “contractors” use high pressure sales tactics and offers of a onetime deal to entice or frighten consumers into expensive and often unnecessary home repairs. Remember to take the time to do your due diligence. Ensure you get the company, name, address and all verbal promises are available in a written contract. Be leery if you are asked to pay in cash or a check with an offer to come back at another time to finish the job (you will probably never see them or your money again).
COMPUTER VIRUS FIXING SCHEME This scam starts when you receive a call with a warning that your computer has been infected with a virus and an offer to clean your computer. What is really happening in this computer virus fixing scheme? The scammer is trying to gain remote access to your computer and get your credit card information. The scammer will say they need remote access to provide the supposed services, and will ask for your computer passwords and related information. They will also ask for your credit card information, so they can be billed for the supposed services. Recognize the con: If you receive an unsolicited call offering anti-virus services, requesting access to your computer or asking for credit card information, hang up! Do not click on pop-up advertisement offering anti-virus services. NEVER give an unsolicited caller access to your computer. Always buy this software from a legitimate vendor you trust.
TWISTED TEXT PRIZES You receive a text message. When you open it, you are surprised by a message informing you that you’ve won a major retailer’s gift card. You just need to go to a website and enter a PIN, and the card is yours. You are asked to enter the PIN and an email address. Then, you are taken to a form and instructed to fill out your name, cell number, mailing address and answer unrelated personal questions, such as “Are you interested in going back to school?” and “Are you diabetic?” When you reach the page to “claim your gift card,” you instead find yourself directed to another site to apply for a credit card. In the end, you never receive a gift card and you have given out personal information. Ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO” to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number. Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts from those numbers. If you think your text message is real, be sure it’s directing to a web address and not just a seemingly similar website name.
PRETENDER INVOICES The “pretender scheme” is when scammers send you an invoice or bill requesting payment for goods or services. These invoices may state that you are past the due date for payment and threaten that non-payment will affect your credit rating. The invoices are fake and are for goods or services you haven't ordered or received. For example, you might be sent an invoice for a domain name that is very similar to your current domain name or for a small amount of stationery. The scammer hopes that you don't notice the difference and just pay the invoice. Make sure the employee paying your invoices checks that a purchase order has been raised before they pay any invoice.
BBB FAKE COMPLAINT EMAIL Yep, it’s us – the BBB phishing scam. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from BBB. The subject line says something like “Complaint Against Your Business,” and the instructions tell the recipient to either click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If the recipient does either, a malicious virus is launched on their computer…a virus that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information needed for cyber-theft.
BBB is working with security consultants and federal law enforcement to track down the source of these emails, and has already shut down dozens of hijacked websites. Anyone who has opened an attachment or clicked on a link should run a complete system scan using reputable anti-virus software. If your computer is networked with others, all machines on the network should be scanned, as well.
Top 8 Ways to Protect Yourself from Scams Millions of older adults fall prey to financial scams every year. Use these tips from NCOA and the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement to protect yourself or an older adult you know. 1. Be aware that you are at risk from strangers—and from those closest to you. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by the older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. Common tactics include depleting a joint checking account, promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property, outright theft, and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, and neglect of basic care needs. Everyone is at risk of financial abuse, even people without high incomes or assets. Understand the top 10 most common scams targeting seniors, so you can spot one before it's too late. 2. Don't isolate yourself—stay involved! Isolation is a huge risk factor for elder abuse. Most family violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception. Some older people self-isolate by withdrawing from the larger community. Others are isolated because they lose the ability to drive, see, or walk about on their own. Some seniors fear being victimized by purse snatchings and muggings if they venture out. Contact your local senior center to get involved. 3. Always tell solicitors: “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced. Send me something in writing.” Don't buy from an unfamiliar company and always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. Neighborhood children you know who are selling Girl Scout cookies or school fundraising items may be an exception, but a good rule of thumb is to never donate if it requires you to write your credit card information on any forms. It's also good practice to obtain a salesperson's name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. And always take your time in making a decision.
4. Shred all receipts with your credit card number. Identity theft is a huge business. To protect yourself, invest in—and use—a paper shredder. Monitor your bank and credit card statements and never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates the contact with you. 5. Sign up for the “Do Not Call” list and take yourself off multiple mailing lists. Visit www.donotcall.gov to stop telemarketers from contacting you. Be careful with your mail. Do not let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. When sending out sensitive mail, consider dropping it off at a secure collection box or directly at the post office. You also can regularly monitor your credit ratings and check on any unusual or incorrect information at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. To get more tips on protecting yourself from fraud, visit www.Onguardonline.gov, which has interactive games to help you be a smarter consumer on issues of related to spyware, lottery scams, and other swindles. 6. Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox. Using direct deposit ensures that checks go right into your accounts and are protected. Clever scammers or even scrupulous loved ones have been known to steal benefits checks right out of mailboxes or from seniors’ homes if they are lying around. 7. Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. Common schemes include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services to beneficiaries. Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking, and Social Security numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare. Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed, and report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE. 8. Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research. Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions. Also, carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all of your requirements have been put in writing. Understand all contract cancellation and refund terms. As a general rule governing all of your interactions as a consumer, do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.
The Elderly Remember to also look out for those friends or family whom may not be internet savvy. The following warning signs provide additional indicators to look for if you know or care for an older adult, which may point to victims of financial abuse: There are unusual recent changes in the person’s accounts, including atypical withdrawals, new person(s) added, or sudden use of a senior’s ATM or credit card. The senior suddenly appears confused, unkempt, and afraid. Utility, rent, mortgage, medical, or other essential bills are unpaid despite adequate income. A caregiver will not allow others access to the senior. There are piled up sweepstakes mailings, magazine subscriptions, or “free gifts,” which means they may be on “sucker lists.” Every state operates an Adult Protect Services (APS) program, which is responsible for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and in most states, the abuse of younger adults with severe disabilities. APS is the “911” for elder abuse. Anyone who suspects elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation should make a report. The reporter’s identity is protected. APS services are confidential, so the reporter may not be able to learn the outcome of the case. APS respects the right of older persons to make their own decisions and to live their lives on their own terms. In cases of cognitive impairment, however, APS will take steps to protect the older person to the degree possible.
Are you a victim? If you think you've been scammed, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it—waiting could only make it worse. Immediately: Contact your bank and/or credit card company. Cancel any debit or credit cards linked to the stolen account. Reset your personal identification number(s). Notify your local police.