Jul 12

5 things to be aware of while playing Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO, an online game, is all the rage across the country. It is the most downloaded phone app in the U.S. It uses mapping software to create a virtual reality game. It gets people out and about in their neighborhoods to “catch” the game characters as they pop up on phone screens from various locations.

As with any viral trend, Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is getting a lot of questions about the app.

A few security concerns came up. First, online reports claimed that the app accessed people’s Google accounts. Recently, a Huffington Post article showed only Google basic information was accessed by the app.

Make sure you remember the 5 things!

Make sure you remember the 5 things!

Another security concern? The threat of malware found in a version of Pokemon GO.

BBB advice: Only download apps from the store that works for your device. While you may think it is easy to download it from an email, chances are that could damage your device or try to steal your information.

Click here for BBB’s 5 things you need to know about Pokemon GO. 


Jul 12

Beware of summer employment scams

Summertime means some people are out looking for a part time job before school starts again, or they are looking to supplement their income with an additional job. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York wants everyone to be aware of employment scams, especially this time of year.

BBB’s Scam Tracker shows several job scams, mostly “work from home” schemes. One person said they received an offer to be a mystery shopper who would be paid $198 for each survey they completed. This person didn’t fall for the scam; what tipped her off was all of the misspelled words in the email.

employment scams

Don’t let employment scams fool you

Scammers find their victims through email and job sites, whether by posting a “position” or reaching out directly to the person. Common signs of scam job offers are flexible hours or the ability to work from home. The position usually pays well for little work and the name of the company may be made up or similar to a well-known company. What we’ve also found is that the scammers are not even in this country.

Be sure to look at the contact information in the posting. If asked to apply by email, check that the address listed is on the company’s domain (info@company.com, careers@company.com). Also, look at the website of the company. A real website has an “S” in the URL (https) which shows that it is secure. Unsecured websites put not only your computer but also your personal information at risk.

Ask yourself these questions when job searching:

  • Is this company real? – Compare the contact information in the offer to the information listed on the company’s website. Confirm the job opening by getting in touch with the company. You can also check the company’s profile on bbb.org – it will tell you the type of business and its reputation.

  • Are we moving too fast? – A business will not ask you for any personal information before you are hired. This includes your home address, Social Security number, or bank accounts.

  • Where’s my interview? – Business will rarely make hiring decisions over the phone without a formal interview. An on-the-spot offer could be a sign of trouble.

  • Is this realistic? – If the job requires no experience and offers decent pay for few hours and easy work, that’s a red flag. Common titles in employment scams include secret shopper, caregiver, or customer service representative.

Advice for students: Work with the career center at your school to avoid falling for employment scams. Scams can be reported to BBB’s Scam Tracker.


Jul 08

Watch out for Mega Millions lottery scams

With a huge “Mega Millions” lottery jackpot on the line this weekend, Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York warns people to know that scammers could be around the corner trying to take advantage of the situation to trick people into thinking they are winners.


If free money seems too good to be true…

You can get the winning numbers online or from the TV.  Scammers reach out to potential victims via email, telephone, and snail mail to “inform” them of a smaller prize. Lottery scams were among the Top Ten Scams of 2015 as reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

How the lottery scam works:

Scammers will target people, asking them to pay “taxes” or other fees before they can claim their “winnings.” Once payment is received, there is no prize and the scammers are nowhere to be found.

You have to play the lottery to win the lottery, don't believe emails or calls saying you won

You have to play the lottery to win the lottery, don’t believe emails or calls saying you won!

In another version, a letter comes letting the person know they won a prize. Included is a check to cover the taxes on the winnings. The person is told to deposit that check into their bank account and then send the money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, which can’t be traced. The lottery check is a fake. It bounces and we all know how the rest goes.

Tips to avoid a lottery scam:

Don’t pay up to claim your prize. In order to receive a prize, don’t pay money or buy products. Common red flags include a request to send money via wire, prepaid debit card, gift card or other unusual forms of payment.

Be wary of emails. You won’t get an email from a state-run lottery or sweepstakes company about a prize.

You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if someone says you are a winner for a contest you never entered.

Verify the details, but not by using the sources from scammers. Don’t use the phone number, email, address, or website the scammer gives you.

Check with BBB. Call or check out our Scam Tracker if you have concerns.


Jun 29

Live tweeting recap from our #cybersecurity event

Cyber security is an important part of any business. This week, Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, Niagara County Small Business Development Center, Niagara USA Chamber, Senator Rob Ortt in partnership with Congressman Chris Collins hosted an event for local businesses.

Thank you to our presenters: AT&T, Digits, LLC, law enforcement, Lawley and Lincoln Archive.

The facts:
1. 60 percent of businesses that are a victim of a data breach will go out of business after six months.
2. A cyber attack could cost a business hundreds of thousands of dollars.
3. Hackers could be in your computers for months before they are detected.
4 Hackers are looking for personally identifiable information, or PII.

If your company experiences a breach, assess the situation:
1. How did they get in?
2. What were they after?
3. What did they take?

For more information on cybersecurity, visit bbb.org/cybersecurity



Jun 23

Tickets in demand for 2016 NHL draft

With the NHL draft in Buffalo this weekend, hockey fans from all over the country are in town, hoping to see their favorite team draft the next NHL superstar. With limited tickets the demand is high, so high in fact those tickets sold out in less than a minute. Many fans are now turning to other sources to be able to attend.

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is reminding hockey fans to make sure to verify that the tickets they purchase for draft events are real. Tickets for the first round are being resold on the secondary market for more than five times the original price. Sellers are taking advantage of the demand and exclusivity of this event.


Fans hope to cheer their team’s choice at the 2016 NHL Draft.

BBB of Upstate New York has tips to make sure your tickets are the real thing:

Verify the seats are real. Always ask for a section, row, and seat number to check the location and avoid seats that do not exist.

Pay with a credit card. This way, you have some recourse if the tickets are not as promised. Do not use cash; there is little to no way of getting your money back if the tickets are fake.

Know the difference between a ticket broker and a ticket scalper. A ticket broker is a legitimate and accredited re-seller while a ticket scalper is an unregulated and unlicensed ticket seller.

Don’t give too much personal information. It’s important to never provide sensitive information such as your Social Security number or financial data. Confirm the name and address of the business before you purchase, especially if you are buying from a ticket broker or third-party website.

Report any suspected ticket scams to local law enforcement and to BBB’s Scam Tracker so that others can be warned as well.



Jun 15

Avoid door-to-door contractors this summer

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is how scammers posing as door-to-door contractors operate.

Be wary of contractors at your door!

Be wary of contractors at your door!

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York’s Scam Tracker had a report from a man who had issues with his driveway, after seeing the contractor at his neighbor’s house. He asked for company for a price to fix his own driveway. The job was completed for $7,000. Weeks later, he said plants began to sprout between cracks in the asphalt. This year, the concrete began to heave and more plants appeared. The phone number on the invoice was disconnected. The paving company was in the news last year by the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office for preying on elderly people in the area.

Door-to-door scams often have this MO: A person shows up at your door, offering to to fix something they “noticed while passing through the neighborhood,” either a roof, a driveway, etc.  If you agree to the work, they will start, and suddenly be out of the stuff they need to finish. They then promise to come back the next day…but never return. The customer is left with an incomplete project. Any savings are lost when a second contractor has to come in finish or re-do the job the right way.

Follow BBB’s tips to avoid getting scammed at your door:

  • Avoid high-pressure sales. A legitimate business will give you time to check licensing and background information. Call your city or town municipality or visit New York State online to confirm the contractor or contractors are in good standing.

  • Do your research. BBB recommends you get three estimates from reputable contractors for your project. BBB Business Reviews will show if the contractor has had complaints and how the complaints were resolved. Accredited Businesses have agreed to resolve any complaints filed and to uphold BBB Standards of Trust.

  • Use the 3-3-3 rule.  BBB’s 3-3-3 rule explains how to break up the payments: pay one third up front, one third at a milestone mark (half-way) and one third at the completion of the project. Never pay up front and don’t pay with cash. Instead, pay by credit card. Banks offer protection for credit card purchases. There is no way to track cash payments.

  • Get a contract. Trustworthy contractors will draw up a contract with a description of materials, labor, start and completion dates, company name, local address and telephone number.

  • You have three days to reconsider. Keep in mind that the three-day cooling off rule applies to most home repair contracts. You may decide to cancel the contract by midnight of the third day, including Saturdays. Make sure the contract has details about how to cancel and send all correspondence by certified mail as proof that you followed the cancellation requirements.

  • If you feel threatened, call the police. Never let a door-to-door salesperson in your home.

  • Report it. BBB’s Scam Tracker allows people to report solicitations and find out more about other scams across the country.


Jun 09

Protecting your credit cards

Protecting your credit cards is still important, even with the new chip technology. A card that has a magnetic stripe is still at risk. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York recently shared our tips for keeping your information safe with WKBW-TV.

Thieves have multiple methods to steal your credit card information (known as skimming). One way is to install a fake credit card reader on top of an existing one. This fake reader collects the information from the magnetic stripe of your card. The most common targets are gas stations and ATMs. Some signs of a skimmer could be chipped paint or broken security tape. If it looks a little fishy, stay away from it!

“Radio Frequency Identification” technology, or RFID allows you to make swipeless payments with your credit cards. MasterCard’s “PayPass” and Chase bank’s “Blink” are two examples of these types of cards. Other cards are noted with a wireless symbol (four curved lines) on the back. Credit card skimmers can pick up the card’s information wirelessly from up to 100 meters away. You can protect your cards in this instance by using an RFID sleeve.

RFID credit card sleeve

An example of an RFID sleeve

Better Business Bureau has other tips to protect your credit cards:

  • Monitor your statements for suspicious charges. Thieves usually test your card with small transactions that go unnoticed. Call your credit card company if you see these charges. The company may contact your first if the purchase doesn’t match your typical spending habits, whether in terms of the dollar amount or location.

  • Check your credit history every year. You are entitled to one free report per year at annualcreditreport.com.

  • Cut up old or expired cards and close all inactive accounts. An inactive account is attractive to a thief because you are less likely to notice any unusual activity.

  • Carry only the cards you need. Your information can’t be stolen if your card is at home.

  • Never carry your Social Security card with you.


May 31

Scam alert: Vanity awards

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is warning businesses of a vanity award scheme going around.

Reports from Buffalo and Rochester area business owners to BBB’s Scam Tracker say they received emails stating they are the winner of a “2016 Best of [TYPE OF BUSINESS]” award in their city.

Vanity Award

Did you win this award? Probably not…

It turns out that businesses are not winning based on merit, but for the sole intent of purchasing the plaque or certificate for an inflated price. The website claims this award program is run annually to recognize the best in the industry for, “exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.”

award website 2

“Winners” are then encouraged to pay $149 or more to claim their award and receive a personalized plaque.

BBB’s investigation into the websites (local.awardconnections.org, awardconnections.net) found the domain was registered earlier this year to Nathan Bethel from a company called Award Connections in Houston, TX. Several other BBBs across the country also received calls from business owners about this “awards program.” The other reported email is coming from bestbusinesses.biz, which is registered in Toronto, ONT.

BBB recommends the following tips to avoid a vanity award scheme:

Check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org to ensure the offer is legit.

Learn everything you can about the organization that is “giving” the award. If it is coming from a mystery company, chances are it just wants your money.

If you didn’t apply for an award or if you don’t know how you got nominated, chances are the award is not legitimate.

Most legitimate awards do not come with costs for the recipient. If there is a cost, scrutinize it even more closely. If there is a fee for winning or for receiving a certificate or plaque it could be a scam.

Ask specific questions about how your company or organization was chosen for an award and find out how many similar awards are given each year. Get details. Businesses and organizations that offer legitimate awards will usually be willing to provide detailed information on why a specific company received the award.

If the announcement for the award leads to a website, do not enter any personal information on that site unless you are positive of the company’s legitimacy and the award’s validity.

You can also check BBB’s Scam Tracker to see if others are reporting this activity.


May 24

Don’t forget: Check out organizers before signing up for race!

Nice weather in Upstate New York marks the arrival of race season. Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, these events are a healthy way to support a good cause, but how can you be sure your donation is going to the right place? Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York says always check out a fun run or charity race before paying the entry fee.

Last May, Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder issued a report about the Color 5 Mile. The website looked official at first glance,  but a closer look showed misspellings and inaccurate information. The City of Denver stated that it was not aware of the event.

Race season is here.

Whether it’s a charity race or a fun run, always check with BBB first!

BBB offers the following tips for fun and charity runs:

  • Do your research on both the organizer and the charitable connection. What kind of background does the organizer have? Have fun run events been canceled in the past? Find out how much of the proceeds are going to the charity, and be sure the charity is one that you want to support. Use give.org to read reviews of national charities, or visit bbbfoundationuny.org for more information on local charities.

  • Check with the venue to make sure the run is scheduled. The location may have permits or licensing that are required to host an event.

  • Understand the terms and conditions before you register. Summer weather in Upstate New York can change in an instant.  Does the organizer have a contingency plan? Is there a rain date? If the event is cancelled, is there a refund policy?

  • Pay with a credit card. Credit cards offer protection for transactions and an easier dispute process. Print a copy of your receipt and registration documents to bring with you to the event to avoid confusion.

While there are many great groups and organizations that provide legitimate fun runs, there are others that are looking to take your money without providing the services they promise. Always check first!


May 23

More fake coupons popping up

Another week means more fake coupons popping up on social media.

Have you seen that Kohl’s coupon offer on Facebook?  It’s a clickbait scam.

Scammers are again posing as a well-known retailer to try and get people to click on the link, possibly opening themselves up to malware.

Kohl's scam

Again, scammers are trying to get access to your Facebook friends list with a fake offer!

All of the tell-tale scams signs are there:

The URL:web address for fake kohls

Kohl’s URL:

kohls real

And Kohl’s response to an inquiry about the offer:

Kohls response

BBB recommends the following when it comes to avoiding clickbait on social media:

Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive” or “one time offer.” If it is too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

When in doubt, check it out. Go to the retailer’s page or to the website to see if there is any offer there that looks identical to the offer on social media.

Don’t trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are “liking” or sharing scam links to photos. Their account may have been hacked and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking.” (Clickjacking is a technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on social media links on which you would not usually click.)