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!

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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.)

 

 

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Banks are now targets for spam messages

Check your text messages for spam…scammers pretending to be banks are sending messages to people, hoping they can get your personal or banking information!

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is getting reports to our Scam Tracker about spam text messages, similar to this example:

"Bank" sent this scam text message

This is an example of a scam bank text message received over the weekend.

Looks pretty scary, doesn’t it? 

“Your debit card is locked.”

But is it?

BBB says ask yourself the following questions:

Look closely at the message you received, do you even have an account at that bank?

Does the phone number look familiar?

Did you sign up for text message alerts? 

BBB staff called the phone numbers on the message. One was disconnected, the other gave a busy signal.

BBB worked with Matt Malloy from 13 WHAM news on this story.  He received a text message as well, called the number and it asked him to enter his full account number. Banks have your information, so it shouldn’t prompt you to enter your full account number.

BBB advice: If you get a text message, take a minute to do a little research.  

Check the name of the bank. Do you have an account with that bank?

Check the phone number. Is that the correct number for the bank? The best way to find out is to check the back of a credit or debit card for a customer service number. If you are concerned, call that number first, not the number on the message.

Don’t click on a link. If the text message contains a link, do not click, it could contain malware.

Click here to read the story.  Remember you can always call BBB if you have any questions. To learn more about trending scams in your area, check out BBB’s Scam Tracker. 

 

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Those yellow page invoices are not real!

Those yellow page invoices that are coming into offices across Upstate New York are not real, and should not be paid.

Businesses are reporting to Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker that a phony directory invoice is coming in via fax, demanding payment for services that owners say they didn’t receive.

The invoice, from American Yellow Group, claims to be from the “outsourced billing department” in Bulgaria. The notice states that the business purchased “Facebook and Twitter features” and that it is the “last chance to protect your credit score in good standing.”

One of the red flags on the invoices states “Send check to address to Bulgaria. Varna, Vinitsa 9002, PO Box 83” with a reminder to send the payment with international postage.

Invoices

There are several red flags on this invoice, which was sent to a business in Upstate New York

Reports to Scam Tracker include:

Orchard Park, NY business: “Our company was targeted by a company claiming to be American Yellow Group, Inc. outsourced billing department for the yellow pages. They sent a fax stating that we have owed them for over a year and have never heard of them.”

North Collins, NY business: “It was a faxed invoice stating we owe $496.95 for a 1 year listing which includes Facebook and Twitter Features, for free, and this is my last chance to pay to keep my credit score “in good standing!!!”. The remittance address is Yellow Pages Inc. Bulgaria, Varna, Vinitsa 9022 PO Box 4 (really weird address format).”

Bath, NY business: “Sent an invoice for $496.95 with notice of “COLLECTION WARNING” AND “LAST CHANCE TO PROTECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE IN GOOD STANDING”. Invoice pending since 11/25/2014. Send check to: Yellow Pages Inc. Bulgaria, Varna Vinitsa 9022 PO Box 4.”

Better Business Bureau knows scammers try to take advantage of busy business owners by sending a fake invoice; hoping it gets paid with legitimate invoices.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid falling victim to a directory invoice scam:

Question the services. If you or anyone in your company didn’t order the services or if you don’t have a history with that company, do not supply any personal information or submit payments. You are not legally required to pay the invoice.

Train the staff. Inform employees to be aware of potential invoice/computer and phone scams. Encourage them to flag suspect invoices for review.

Keep up-to-date records. Record an updated list of vendors and services your business is associated with to avoid falling for a scam that looks similar to a legitimate company.

BBB wants any business that encounters one of these invoices or another directory scam to report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

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Avoid paving scams this spring season

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York wants everyone to recognize and avoid paving scams this spring season.

Since March 1, BBB received over 6,300 inquiries from the public about paving contractors.

A check of BBB’s Scam Tracker shows that paving scams are being reported across the country. Most of the reports start the same way, with someone coming to the front door and saying, “we were doing a job down the street and had leftover material, do you want us to do your driveway, too?” And, many people report a loss of money, some upwards of $1,000.

paving

“…We were driving by with extra paving materials…” don’t fall for a paving scam.

How can you avoid paving scams?

If someone knocks on your door with a too good to be true offer…BBB’s advice?  Just say no.

The following checklist will help you avoid paving and other home improvement scams:

Avoid high pressure sales, either on the phone or at the door. If the offer has a time limit to it, hang up or close the door. Legitimate businesses will give you time to check for background information and important license and insurance information.

Research­ the company. Before making any decision to hire a paving or any other kind of contractor, BBB recommends checking out a company’s Business Review. Look for response to complaints if there are any on file.

Use the 3-3-3 rule. Get three estimates from paving companies, don’t pay full price upfront or pay with cash. Use BBB’s 3-3-3 rule: Pay one third up front, one third halfway or milestone mark and one third at the completion of the work. BBB also recommends paying by credit card which offers more protection. Once cash is gone, it’s gone.

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

If you feel threatened, contact the police. You do not need to speak to anyone at your door. Report them to the local police department. Never let anyone you don’t know into your home.

Remember the three day cooling off rule applies to most home repair contracts. People have the right to cancel a contract by midnight of the third business day, including Saturdays. Everyone should make sure the contract contains details about how to cancel and send all correspondence by certified mail as proof.

BBB encourages anyone who comes across a door-to-door paving scam to report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker and the local police.

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Microsoft is not calling you!

Microsoft is not calling you, it’s a scam. Several Central and Western New Yorkers are telling Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York’s Scam Tracker that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be “Microsoft tech support” or they will simply say they are calling from tech support.  They say there are viruses or other issues detected on your computer and that they need to get access.

Microsoft scam

These are some of the things a computer repair scammer may tell you

Scam Tracker reports include: 

Chenango County:
“I got a call saying they were microsoft and that my computer was giving out error messages and could be a virus. I hung up so that is all I got, but I do have a number.”

Oswego County:
“I have received many calls from a (516) 635-4085 number, stating that they are calling from Microsoft and that something is wrong with my computer and they would like to remote in on it to fix the issue. I informed them that I do not own a computer and at that time they hung up on me. I have received theses calls for the last few weeks and they call constantly throughout the day.”

Monroe County:
“Caller calls my father on a daily basis, Indian accent is detectable. Tells my father that his computer is sending error messages. Never let him into our computer but he calls every day. The callers phone number is (212) 650-7149.”

Microsoft has a page on its website where it explains how it or affiliate companies never call people. 

If you don’t hang up, there’s a chance the scammers may:

  • Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable.

  • Try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program.

  • Ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services — or services you could get elsewhere for free.

  • Trick you into installing malware that could allow them to steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords.

  • Direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or another tech company, hang up and call the company yourself with the number you get from a legitimate source. Keep these other tips in mind:

  • Don’t give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.

  • Do not rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number, when they’re not even in the same country as you.

  • If you need tech support, look for a company’s contact information on their website, software package or on your receipt.

  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.

  • If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.

  • Never give your password on the phone. No legitimate organization calls you and asks for your password.

If you think you might have accidentally downloaded malware or allowed a scammer to access your computer, don’t panic. Instead:

  • Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything it identifies as a problem.

  • Change  you passwords, all of them!  If you use these passwords for other accounts, change those accounts, too.

  • If you paid for “services” with a credit card, call your credit card company and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any other charges you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those, too.

If you or someone you know gets a call like this, please report it to our Scam Tracker. 

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IRS imposters are still at it

As we get closer to the tax filing deadline of April 18th, Better Business Bureau of Upstate New york wants everyone to know that tax and IRS imposters are still at it… they’re making calls trying to trick people into paying taxes they don’t owe.

Did you get a call from Steve Martin, Ron Schneider, Kevin Mason, Vicki Thompson or Dennis Gray? Or, did you get a message?

Phone

This is one of the things the IRS imposters are telling people over the phone.

“You will be arrested if you do not make restitution immediately. This is your last chance before going to jail.”

“Hello, official final notice from IRS. The IRS is ready to bring a lawsuit against you. To find out more about this case please call our department number.”

Several Upstate New Yorkers reported receiving calls from these names and messages like these to Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker. The good news is: None of them got scammed out of any money. They all recognized the scam and reported it so that others will know, too.

Other tactics
A BBB team member recently received a call from a Rochester-area woman who said the IRS scammers told her they came to her house several times to see her but she wasn’t home.

A Niagara County woman told police the IRS scammers asked her for iTunes gift cards as payment.

The IRS is warning people of a new twist on the scam
: The imposters are calling people saying they have their tax returns, but they need to verify information before sending it out.

If you receive a call, remember:
The IRS will never call you
Don’t wire any money
Just hang up and don’t call back
Never give out your personal information or banking

If you get an email, BBB offers this advice:
Don’t reply to the message
Don’t give out your personal or financial information
Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov, then delete it
Don’t open any attachments or click on any links
Report the email to BBB’s Scam Tracker

For a list of the latest IRS scam warnings, click here. For real-time scam information, visit BBB’s Scam Tracker. 

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Another Facebook “like farming” is making the rounds; know how to spot it

Another day, another Facebook “like farming” post is making the rounds, tricking people into thinking if they share a post they will win big.

Example of like-farming on Facebook

People think by liking and sharing a post and making a comment, they are entered to win.

Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York hears from people all the time who ask “is this real?” Sadly, it’s not.

Land Rover

Land Rover telling a Facebook user it is not affiliated with any offer

This is a common practice known as “like farming.”

Like-farmers create a Facebook page to lure people into liking or sharing the page, by promoting a giveaway or something else. After the page gets hundreds of likes and shares, the like-farmers may change the information to promote something else, such as products that they will receive commissions for selling. They may also sell the page and information that was collected from the “likes” with a more direct threat of gaining access in an attempt to gather credit card numbers that may be stored for certain Facebook apps, passwords or other personal information.

If you “liked” a page or shared what you thought was an offer or a contest, go back into your activity log to check. You may see pages that were not what you originally thought it was.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid like-farming pages:

Think before you click. Is that page really the page that represents the company? Before you like, look for the blue checkmark that indicates the page is real and verified by Facebook.

Read the comments. If several people are posting “fake” or “scam,” check out the verification or do a quick Internet search to see if it is real or not.

If it seems too good to be true…it probably is.

For more information on how to spot like-farming, read this article from USA Today.

To report like-farming to Facebook, click here.

 

 

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Do you know what to do if a scammer calls? From fake IRS to utility imposters, calls continue

Do you know what to do if a scammer calls you?

Calls continue in Upstate New York from the fake IRS to utility imposters. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York continues to receive reports to our Scam Tracker about the IRS scam.

Scam Calls

Are these calls legit, or a scam?

The good news is, most people are smart enough to recognize the scam and are reporting it to us and the proper authorities.

People are reporting the following to Scam Tracker:

“…Call stating IRS is coming to get me, I owe money.”

“… I then asked him if I was sent out a notice and when and he slipped up and said in 2010. I was then told again that there is an arrest warrant out for me — i asked him if the police were going to come to my home and he said yes and then hung up.”

“…left a message claiming to be calling on behalf of US Treasury about an enforcement action. Threatened appearance before a magistrate or grand jury for federal criminal offense if call was not returned. I did not return the call.”

Utility scam
National Grid is warning its customers about a phone scam. The company says the caller pretends to be from National Grid and demands immediate payment for a “past due bill.” The scammer wants the payment made with a pre-paid debit card.

In a news release, National Grid reminds customers that it does contact via phone over past due balances, but does not accept any kind of payment with a prepaid debit card.

People are reporting the following to Scam Tracker:

“Wanted just under 500 dollars to stop disconnect in 30 minutes. I knew he was scammer and reminded him of such yet he continued. I got his whole name (probably fake) and his employee number from National Grid. Never got to payment but he wanted Western Union. Another tip to scammers. Told him call was recorded and I hung up.”

“The person who answered the phone got a number and ext. I returned the call where I was asked to give my credit card info to pay the bill. When I told the man on the phone I would not give my info. He became very loud yelling and swearing.. He claimed to be National Grid.”

If you get one of these calls, remember the following:

Never wire any money or use a prepaid debit card. National Grid does call people who have past due bills, but the company does not accept prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.

Again, the IRS will never call, and will send you a bill in the mail if you owe taxes.

When in doubt, hang up. It is tempting to get the last word, but you may end up giving scammers information they can use later. If you are unsure, ask the caller for a phone number and check it out online or call the company from which the caller claims to be affiliated.

Never give out your personal information or banking information. Caller ID spoofing makes it very easy for callers to pretend to be someone else. Be very skeptical of anyone who calls asking for money or personal information.

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BBB 2015 stats are out!

It was another great year for BBB. BBB’s 2015 stats are out, which show more of you turned to us to find a business, submit a review, file a complaint or request a quote.

BBB stats

BBB of Upstate New York’s 2015 Stats

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