Oct 13

Utility scam back in Upstate New York

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is warning people that a utility scam is back. National Grid says scammers are targeting its customers.

An old phone scam is back.

An old phone scam is back

Scammers are demanding payment over the phone saying they will shut off service if you do not comply.

Utility companies do sometimes contact their customers by phone, which can make it difficult to tell if it is a legitimate call.

BBB offers the following tips:

If they ask you to pay with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer,that is a big red flag. Most utilities accept check or credit card payments and will usually direct you to a payment location.

If you aren’t sure if it is legit, do not give your any of your personal information. This includes credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers.

If you feel pressured for payment or information, hang up and call the customer service number on your bill. That way, you know you are speaking to a real representative.

Don’t allow anyone in your home unless you scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, don’t go outside to view broken meters or point out property lines. Always ask utility employees for proper identification.

If you have questions or concerns, you can always call BBB at 800-828-5000 or check out our Scam Tracker for the latest information.

Oct 11

Secure Your ID Day

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York hosted its annual Secure Your ID Day event on Saturday, October 8th.

Tops, Shred-It, and AT&T helped to make this event the largest it has ever been.

Over 1,700 people brought their old documents for free shredding and destruction.

Missed the event? Take a look at photos and videos shared by BBB of Upstate New York:

Oct 06

BBB shred day is this Saturday!

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York (BBB) shred day is this Saturday, October 8, 2016.

In 2015, 13.1 million Americans reported being a victim of identity fraud at the cost of $15 billion.

Did you know every two seconds someone steals an identity? BBB says the first rule of protection is if you don’t need it you should shred it – responsibly.

BBB of Upstate New York along with Tops Friendly Markets, Shred-It, and AT&T are hosting Secure Your ID Day on Saturday, October 8, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. across Upstate New York (Western New York, Rochester, and Central New York).

The community can bring up to three boxes or bags of old papers for on-site shredding. BBB and AT&T volunteers will give out safety tips.

 Click here for locations and times. 


Sep 30

Tech support scams reappear in Upstate NY

The tech support scam is back in Upstate New York. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York’s Scam Tracker is receiving reports again of scammers pretending to offer tech support to unsuspecting users.

There are three types of tech support scams. The first is a phone call from a “specialist” at a computer company. The second type is a pop up on your computer, wanting you to call a number to fix the “problem” your computer has. Ransomware is the third type. These programs lock your computer and demand payment to release your files. Be careful not to give in to this request. You may be targeted again because the scammers know they have someone who will do what they say.

tech support

Never give out your passwords over the phone.

Reports to BBB’s Scam Tracker:

Monroe County: “Pop up window appeared while using Internet and advised me to contact Microsoft immediately about a security breach on my system. Phone number given was ***-***-**** which went to an answering machine. Pop up does not go away even after the system has been turned off and restarted.”

Albany County: “This ****** guy called me up two days ago and said “Hi, I am from Microsoft tech support. I wanted to let you know that our servers here at Microsoft are showing that your software needs special attention as there is a problem on your computer.” He then told me to hold down the Windows key on the keyboard and search for the letters “OSK” in the search bar and then follow his instructions so that he can gain access to my computer and fix the problem.”

Orleans County: “Computer screen froze and said to call certain number to free it up of all spyware and such. Finally resolved for one check for $499.99 and another for $395.95. Haven’t felt good about it since it happened yesterday.”

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York provides these tips to stay ahead of these scammers:

If you receive a tech support call:

  • Do not rely on caller ID to know who is calling. Scammers can spoof a name and number to hide their real identities.

  • Use bbb.org or a known company’s official website to get tech support information.

  • Never give out your password or allow remote access to your computer the phone.

If you think you downloaded a virus or ransomware:

  • Update or download security software from a legitimate provider and scan your computer.

  • Change all of your passwords. Use a password manager to keep track of your passwords.

  • If you get a pop-up, use Control-Alt-Delete to get rid of it. Do not click on the ad.

  • Watch your credit cards statements for unauthorized charges. You can call the card company to have the charges dropped.

Update: One of our staff received this message from Microsoft with the correct information to reach their tech support staff.

Hi Z***,

The error telling you to contact this number  888-255-8309 or else you will lose your files is a well known scam. The number of the said department is not from Microsoft since we use this 800-642-7676 for global support. Please do report any issue like this one to our report-a-scam page. The link is given below.


Thanks for contacting Answer Desk.

Sep 28

New state law protects gift card purcasers

A law signed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo this week now better protects consumers from hidden fees and other penalties associated with gift cards.

Regulations on gift cards in New York State changed this week.

Regulations on gift cards in New York State changed this week.

Under the new law:

  • No fees after 13 months for cards with a balance; that time frame is now 25 months.

  • If you use the card within three years of the issue date, there are no fees.

  • Cards expire no earlier than five years from the date purchased.

  • There are also additional terms and conditions for replacing a lost or stolen card.

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York wants everyone to do their homework to maximize their gift cards.

  • Be cautious about buying gift cards from third parties or online auctions, because it is hard to tell whether the cards have any value remaining. Also, you may not be able to see if a card shows signs of tampering or if it is expired.

  • If you buy a gift card in store, make sure to check the packaging and any security seals.

  • Check the fine print to see if there are fees associated with the card, including a transaction or inactivity fees. In some cases, an organization may charge a service fee to issue the card.

  • See if the card has a hard expiration date.

  • Check the terms and conditions on the gift card. If you are giving a card

    to a friend who wants to shop online, make sure you can use the card online and in stores.

  • Consider the condition of the retailer or bank issuing the card. If you think the store may be on shaky footing, you may want to pass.

Sep 23

Opiates in the Workplace recap

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, U.S. Attorney William Hochul, Erie County Health Department, Lake Shore Behavioral Health, and Bond, Schoeneck and King held the first Opiates in the Workplace seminar Thursday, September 22nd. Employers from all over Western New York attended to learn more about dealing with employees who are dealing with addiction.

Here’s a recap of the event, as tweeted by BBB of Upstate New York:




Sep 23

What you need to know about the Yahoo! email breach

Yahoo! says and email breach that included information from 500 million email accounts was stolen in 2014. According to the company, the theft may include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

Ostersund, Sweden - June 23, 2016: Yahoo website under a magnifying glass. Yahoo is a multinational Internet corporation globally known for its Web portal, search engine Yahoo Search.

Change your Yahoo! email password if you haven’t already. 

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York has tips for those who have a Yahoo! email account:

Make passwords long and strong. Don’t use a single word; try a phrase or a jumble of words that only means something to you. Mix upper and lower case letters, add numbers in random places, add a symbol. Don’t create passwords based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed, such as your mother’s maiden name or your dog’s name.

Use unique passwords for every account. While it may be easy to use the same password for every account, BBB advises everyone to switch it up. Even though it is easier to remember, it could be dangerous if one account is hacked!

Secure your passwords. Keep a written list of passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer or smartphone. Consider sharing the location of your passwords with someone you trust. Never share your passwords with friends, and especially not with someone who contacts you (scammers often pose as a bank, IRS agent, etc.).

Change your passwords regularly. We know it is a pain to change and then remember all your passwords, but it’s one of the best ways to keep your private information safe.

Consider doing so every six months:
April (Digital Spring Cleaning)
October (National Cyber Security Awareness Month)
May (World Password Day, May 5)

Keeping strong and secure passwords are just another way to protect your online identity.




Aug 30

Grandparent scammers request iTunes gift card payment

itunes gift cards

Do not reveal any information to these scammers.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Upstate New York is warning the public about scammers asking for iTunes gift cards as a method of payment. The trend began to appear in reports to BBB’s Scam Tracker system late last year and so far, there have been 200 reports nationwide of scammers asking people for iTunes gift cards.

BBB recently received two reports to our Scam Tracker from victims of the “grandparents scam.” The scammer called the victims saying they are the grandchild/lawyer for the grandchild and ask for either bail money or lawyer’s fees. The scammer demands the person pay them with an iTunes gift card instead of a traditional method.

From Scam Tracker:
“The caller identified himself as my grandson and said he was in Florida and had been a passenger in a traffic stop where marijuana was found. He said he was being held over for a hearing and needed $5000 for an appearance bond. I was to purchase iTunes gift cards and telephone the numbers to the scammer.”

“A young individual called pretending to be the grandson of an elderly couple. He stated he was arrested and desperately needed help and needed to be bailed out. The scammer told the couple to go to ******* and purchase $2000 in iTunes cards and call back with the card numbers. The scammers later called back stating the cards did not work and the grandfather went back and purchased another $2000 in iTunes cards and gave the numbers to the scammer. By the time elderly couple contacted family members about the situation and were informed they were being scammed, the cards had already been redeemed. Endless calls to the credit companies and ******* administrators resulted in no action. Police report filed.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), once you tell a scammer the code on the back of an iTunes gift card, you give them access to the amount on the card. The scammer can then use the code or sell it. However, as soon as you put money on an iTunes card or once they redeem the card the money is gone for good.

To avoid getting scammed, BBB of Upstate New York offers the following tips:

  • Never pay with an iTunes gift card. If you are not shopping at the iTunes store, you should not be paying with an iTunes gift card. Do not pay with any gift cards, including Amazon gift cards, or re-loadable cards. Scammers may even ask you to pay through PayPal.

  • Call Apple Support. Apple states on its website: “iTunes Gift Cards are solely for the purchase of goods and services on the iTunes Store and App Store. Should you receive a request for payment using iTunes Gift Cards outside of iTunes and the App Store please report it at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.” If you think you may be a victim of this type of scam, call Apple Support right away and explain what happened. They may be able to disable the card. Also, consider going back to the store that sold you the iTunes gift card and talk with their customer service staff.

  • Never wire money. We know scammers like you to “wire the money” to them, including wire transfer through services like Western Union or MoneyGram. Government offices do not require you to wire transfer money as a method of payment.

  • Report it. If you are the target of a scam like this, you can file a complaint with the FTC or report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

Remember, government agencies, financial institutions and reputable retailers (unless it is iTunes) will not accept iTunes gift cards as a form of currency.

BBB’s Scam Tracker provides information on trending scams in our area.  For updates, visit our blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Aug 19

Avoid scams at college

College is a time of freedom and self-development. However, students must be careful or else they may put themselves in situations that could harm their financial future. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York offers the following tips on the most common scams targeted at students:

college students

These are some of the most common scams to affect college students.

  • Roommate/rental scheme. Beware of roommates who are out of the country but can provide rent through a money order. The amount received will be higher than what was requested. You will be asked to cash it and wire the rest of the money back. This is an overpayment scam.

  • Credit cards. It’s good to build credit, but it’s more important to maintain a good credit score. Look for the best interest rate and be sure to pay on time.

  • Employment. Remember our advice about fake job offers? It still applies here. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” No job will offer high pay for no experience. Other signs include an interview in a hotel lobby or having to sign a contract on the spot.

  • Scholarships/grants. Scholarship-finding services “guarantee” that they can find you extra scholarships or grants. However, most financial aid comes from the federal government or the school itself. Check out grants.gov for more information.

  • Safeguard your identity. Keep your personal information, including driver’s license, student ID, debit cards, credit cards, and bank information in a safe place. Never carry your Social Security card with you. Avoid online solicitations, emails, social media sites, or phone calls asking for your personal information. Never give out personal information to anyone you don’t know.

  • Online shopping. Many students shop online for the convenience, but if a website wants your payment through a wire transfer or a prepaid credit card instead of a credit card, it’s a red flag. Make sure you have the company’s address and be sure to see that it’s a physical location (not a P.O. box).

  • Trial offers. Read all of the information about a trial offer before saying yes. Many people don’t know the cost associated with the products or subscription after the free trial is over.

  • Be careful with downloads. It can be tempting to download textbooks, music, and other media for free. But we know that sometimes those files may contain malware that will either steal your information or lock you out of your computer. Be wary of any free downloads!


Aug 10

Disney clickbait pops up again

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is getting reports again of Disney clickbait on Facebook. Scammers take advantage of well-known brand names in order to gather your personal information or access to your accounts and devices. Facebook has recently taken steps to cut back on the amount of clickbait that shows up in your News Feed. If the post falls into one of two clickbait categories, Facebook will limit the reach of the post.

In the meantime, keep this advice in mind to spot clickbait.

Disney clickbait

Notice the URL in this post has nothing to do with Disney – a red flag

Look at the page title. This page is not official because it does not have the blue checkmark. A blue checkmark signifies that Facebook has been verified. The real Walt Disney World page has over 15 million fans.

Poor spelling/grammar. Scammy posts often feature spelling, capitalization, and grammar mistakes.

Too good to be true. Disney is a wealthy company, but it’s unlikely they could afford to give away 8,000 free park tickets and $4,000,00 in prize money. The scammer’s goal is to get your personal information or access to your devices and accounts.

Disney clickbait

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York offers the following tips to avoid being caught by clickbait:

Don’t fall for it. Stay away if it sounds too good to be true.

Check the link before you click. Hover over the link to see where the link is taking you. If you don’t recognize it, don’t open it.

Report scam posts on Facebook here.

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