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BBB Hot Topics: February 2010

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By Better Business Bureau

BBB Lottery Scam - Scam artists are posing as the BBB in order to steal tens of thousands of dollars from victims who are led to believe they have won a lottery. Consumers are contacted on the phone or by e-mail by someone claiming to be an employee of the BBB. They were told that they won a lottery and that they must wire money to get their prize. In some cases, the scammers used the names of real BBB employees, directing victims to legitimate bios and profiles on BBB’s Website. BBB does NOT run a lottery nor award prizes to consumers. If you receive a call or e-mail like this, contact your BBB.

Grandparent Scam - A local couple was scammed out of over $4,000 after they received a call from what they thought was a cop who said their granddaughter was in jail in Canada. The "cop" told the couple that the granddaughter needed money for bond and a lawyer, and asked them to wire the money. The "cop" even let them talk to their "granddaughter," who told them not to tell anybody about what happened. Seniors across the country have lost thousands of dollars to this scam.

Cragslist Job Scam - Not all job postings are what they seem to be on Craigslist. BBB’s across the country are receiving inquiries on questionable job offers through the site. Some signs that the posting could be a scam: They fail to list a specific location for the job, they list a salary that seems too good to be true, They post a government job or "work from home" opportunity, misspellings, no job contact information, and asking for your personal information.

Credit Card Act - Circle February 22nd on your calendar. That’s the day new protections will kick in for cardholders across the U.S. BBB recommends all cardholders familiarize themselves with the new provisions. Some of the new regulations include: more notice for new interest rate changes, older age restrictions, new rules for monthly statements, over the limit opt-in, and more. For a breakdown of the Credit Card Act of 2009 go to creditcards.com.

IRS Scams - At this time of the year, scam artists take advantage of taxpayers. Whether it’s a phone call, an e-mail, or a text message, be wary if it claims to be from the IRS. The message may ask for you to provide personal information. This is a phishing attempt to steal your identity. The IRS will only contact you via the United States Postal Service.

Refund Anticipation Loans - BBB warns to use caution when dealing with refund anticipation loans, which are offered by some tax preparers. These loans give taxpayers an amount equal to their tax refund within 24 hours, but the fees and high interest rates associated with the loan could cost taxpayers in the end. BBB suggests that if it is absolutely necessary to have a refund immediately, shop around. RAL fees vary by tax preparer.

UBI Payment Services promises thousands of dollars in exchange for answering a simple math question and providing a signature. Consumers across the country are receiving letters that state a "guarantee to receive $5,000" if they sign a document and solve a puzzle. The company has an "F" rating with the BBB. UBI Payment Services does business under at least 35 different names. Go to www.bbb.org for a list.

Text Messaging Scams - Scam artists are using text messaging more and more to steal your personal information. The text message purport to be from banks, credit unions, credit card companies, the IRS, and more. The urgent message warns the recipient that his or her account or identity has been compromised. A toll free number is provided for a response, and when it is called the consumer is asked to verify a credit card number or other form of identification. Delete these text messages!

‘809’ Area Code Scams - Be suspicious of e-mails, texts, or messages referring you to call a phone number with an 809 area code. The message often sounds like an emergency, and you are told to call the 809 number right away. When you call, you reach a pay-per-call number in the British Virgin Islands, and are billed $25 or more for dialing the number.

Looking for Love? Consumers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on dating services each year. Wether it’s a matchmaking service or online dating, BBB receives a large number of complaints on the industry. If you plan to use these services, be sure to check out the company with the BBB first, don’t fall for exaggerated advertising claims, and before you sign a contract be sure to read it carefully. Go to www.bbb.org for more information.