BBB Hot Topics: February 2011

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By Better Business Bureau

 A list of hot item topics from the Better Business Bureau for the month of February. For more information visit www.bbb.org.


1.      IRS Scam - If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS telling you that you need to submit information for your W-2, it is a scam. Beware of any other emails purporting to be from the IRS. Some may ask you to click on a link and provide personal information. The IRS will never email you. They will send a letter if they need more information.

2.     Beware of Tax Anticipation Loans! They can be costly! Some tax preparers offer these “rapid refunds” in the form of checks or “gift” debit cards. These are similar to payday loans. They are short-term loans with high interest rates that range from 50 to 500 percent, and in some cases have hidden administrative fees

3.     Valentine’s Scams - Look out for online dating scams, in which the cybercrook creates a false dating profile, complete with attractive photos. Victims are lured into one-on-one chats by e-mail, text, or phone. The goal is to trick you with a mail order bride scam, or one where you’ll wire a “soldier” money for military leave. Another threat includes e-cards that link to hacker Web sites. And, a Valentine’s phishing scheme involves an email indicating the flowers you ordered for your sweetie won’t be delivered unless you log in and re-enter your credit card.

4.     Walmart/Target Gift Card Scam - If an ad pops up on your cell phone while you are using the internet and offers a “free” $100 gift card to Walmart or Target, don’t fall for it. This is a scam. When you call a toll-free number, you will be asked to pay a $4.95 shipping/handling fee for the card with your credit card. This is an attempt to steal your personal information.

5.     Visa/MasterCard Fraud - Scammers pretend to be fraud investigation agents for Visa or MasterCard in order to get your credit card security code. It’s a scam that has worked its way across the Country for years. The caller already has your credit card number and says your card has been “flagged” for an unusual purchase pattern, and then wants you to “verify” the code on the back of your card.

6.     Unemployment Surveys - Websites that offer “free stuff” in exchange for completing an Unemployment Survey are not all they’re cracked up to be. The “free” sites make you jump through hoops to get the “free gift,” if you actually ever receive it. On one website, you must complete a survey and 13 required sponsorship offers that may cost you money. Also, your personal information is sold to other companies and you are bombarded with emails, phone calls, and text messages.

7.     Shopping Job Scam - A concerned local consumer contacted us after she replied to an ad in the paper for a job. The “architect,” who was out of the country, wanted the job seeker to do some shopping for him. The employer sent money orders that were to be deposited and the job seeker was supposed to wire part of the funds back to the “employer.” This is definitely a scam!

8.     Travel and Holiday Job Scam - A local consumer says she was contacted by this company after they found her resume on Hotjobs.com. The company offered a job as Tour Manager for $3000/month plus 5% of the client’s payment, only working 5 - 10 hours per week. (sound too good to be true?) The company then told the job seeker she would need to deposit the clients’ payments and wire money to the company. NEVER wire money to someone you don’t know.

9.     State Record Retrieval Board sends a postcard to homeowners offering to get a copy of their deed and property profile for “just” $87. The company is NOT a government entity, and has an “F” rating with the BBB. Homeowners can get the same information from their County Clerk’s office at a minimal cost.

10.   Nigerian Scam hits Facebook. Don’t believe every email you receive on Facebook. A consumer reports to the BBB that she received an email in her FB account that asked her to assist in retrieving funds that were left behind by a legal practitioner’s client who died in a car accident. The email starts with “your inheritance,” implying she will get some money. She was asked to contact the person at an email address outside of FB. This is a scam!