September Scam Wrap-up 

 

Scam Alert Indicates Rip Off And Advertisement
Scam Alert Showing Rip Off And Sign

By Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in September. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

Home visit scam

A Girdwood woman reported she received a call from someone named Justin Fisher, claiming to represent CUNA Mutual. The company is where her local Credit Union offered a free $4,000 life insurance policy. The caller stated he would be in the woman’s neighborhood and asked what hours she worked so he could visit. Fortunately, the woman didn’t reveal any of her information, but was shocked to hear he had her name, date of birth, mailing address and next of kin.

Tax collection scam

An Anchorage woman reports she nearly lost $9,741 when she received a call from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Treasury. The woman reports she was told she was being charged with tax faud and that all her assets had been seized. She was also told that an arrest warrant was being issued for her, but they could pass her along to the restitution department. The woman hung up and contacted her attorney and accountant who informed her it was a fake call.

IDAHO

Grandson emergency scam

A Meridian woman reported they lost $6,000 in the family emergency scam. She states she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson who told her he was in jail in Hawaii. She was transferred to a “Capt. John Rockford” who told her to purchase $4,000 worth of i-Tunes gift cards from Best Buy and read the numbers back to him. Then she was asked to send an additional $2,000. After relaying the numbers to the caller the woman never heard from her grandson. She finally spoke to him on Sept. 17 and was informed she had been tricked.

Facebook government grant scam

A Boise man said he was contacted via Facebook by someone claiming to be his sister. He was told she had won a government grant for $60,000. She asked him if he wanted the contact to text for the application and he said “sure.” He asked his “sister” if she received the money and she told him yes. After exchanging a few messages with the government contact he called his sister and she told him she didn’t know what he was talking about. He unfriended the person claiming to be his sister on Facebook and reported the incident to BBB.

OREGON

Sweepstakes scam

A Hermiston man reported he was contacted by Mega Global Winners informing him he won $5.5 million. The man states he was told to wire $300 to a man in Twin Falls, Idaho. Fortunately, the man ignored the request.

Tax collection scam

A Scappoose woman reports someone called their husbands cellphone claiming he owed money to the IRS. She was told he needed to call 971-317-4003 to take care of the matter. Fortunately, they ignored the call and reported it to BBB Scam Tracker.

WASHINGTON

Debt collection scam

An Olympia woman reported she was contacted by someone pressuring her to pay a debt collection fee for a cell phone account she never had. The woman claims the caller had her previous married name and social security number. They told her she was named in a class action lawsuit from a cell phone company for an unpaid account. The woman states she never had an account with the company and the debt did not show up on a recent credit report.

Yellow Pages scam

A Monroe man reports he received a fake bill for $1,183. The invoice was for a listing in the Business Yellow Pages USA. The man reported to Scam Tracker that he did not place the order.

 

Four Myths of BBB

Fact Myth Tablet Means Correct Or Incorrect Information

There are plenty of urban legends out there, meant to entertain you with their mystery and spookiness. There’s the one that warns to never flash your headlights at a car who has theirs off and there’s always some tale of a man with a hook.

There are even some myths about the Better Business Bureau. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths associated with BBB.

BBB is a government agency

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The Better Business Bureau is not affiliated with any government agency. It is actually a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. It was established in 1912 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then BBB has grown to include 112 BBB locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Learn more about what BBB does by watching the 90 second “Why We Are Here” video.

BBB is for consumers only

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BBB prides itself on helping consumers make smart choices when searching for a business. One of our goals is to help consumers identify trustworthy businesses and those that aren’t. However, we also do a lot for businesses, whether they are accredited or not. We offer business reviews, mediation services, advertising opportunities, a business magazine and industry driven webinars. At least three of those services are available to non-accredited businesses. Learn more about what we offer by visiting bbb.org/northwest.

BBB only reports complaints

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Not true. We actually provide customer reviews as well. BBB Customer Reviews allow customers to post positive, negative or neutral reviews about organizations with which they have done business. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interaction. Write your customer review today by visiting our Customer Reviews page.

No one uses BBB

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Staying relevant is extremely important to BBB. That’s why we have an outreach program designed to inform both consumers and businesses about the organization. Did you know that every four seconds someone searches a business on bbb.org? In fact, nearly seven million customers visit BBB website each year looking for a company to hire. And 95 percent of consumers recognize the BBB Seal. What’s more, seven out of 10 customers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.

People know the BBB and when they need help learning about a business they oftentimes come to us.

So consider this one myth busted.

Get Your Debt in Check

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While reports show that young adults aren’t racking up credit card debt, they are in fact failing to save and are unaware of how detrimental their student loans are to their livelihood. 

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This is a song I am all too familiar with. A week after I said “I do” to my husband I walked into Money Management International and asked for help getting my credit on track. I was worse off than most with both credit and student loan debt.  My goal was to get my credit score back up so my husband and I could eventually buy a house. It took me five years and some belt tightening, but I was finally able to obtain a credit score that didn’t make me blush.

According to the Department of Education more than 40 percent of Americans who borrowed from the government’s student loan program are not making payments or are behind. In another study, 40 percent of millennials reported they don’t have a retirement income strategy in place and 57 percent report they haven’t begun saving yet.

To help the future of tomorrow get better at budgeting, paying off debt and saving, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips:

Be Precise with Budgets

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Your budget should include more than just rent, utilities, phone bill and insurance. Create a detailed list of the things you spend money on and things you would like to spend money on in the future. For example, be sure to put money away for clothes, haircuts, gas, groceries, medical, credit cards, entertainment and vacation. It might be scary to see your money quickly disappear when disseminated, but it will also leave you prepared when you start a new job and suddenly need a new suit and haircut.

Start Saving Now

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If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck it might be difficult to imagine putting money away into savings, but even a little bit counts. Start with the smallest amount you can manage and then slowly increase the number as you start to become more accustomed to living on a fixed income.

Get Debt Help

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If you need help consolidating your debt or creating payment plans remember there is help out there. And some of it is free. When I got married I was in the process of paying off two collection agencies. After speaking with a representative at MMI I got the amounts lowered and only had to send one check each month. Because I was able to consistently make payments I was able to pay off the debt in no time.

Be wary of someone offering to help you consolidate your debt for a “one-time fee.” Many nonprofit debt counseling agencies can you help for free.

To learn more about debt management visit bbb.org/credit-management.

August Scams Roundup

Top Scams 2015

The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in August. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

Home Improvement Grant Scam

A woman in Anchorage reported her 80-year-old aunt was contacted through Facebook about applying for a home improvement grant. The woman states her aunt applied for a $30,000 grant and was told she needed to send money to cover taxes and fees. The woman sent a money order of $1,000 and then was asked to send more money. She has not been able to get her money returned to her.

Bad sale

An Anchorage man reported he purchased a sound system from someone for $300. The man claims he was shown an invoice slip and told there was a warranty with the purchase. He soon discovered the sound system was of poor quality. He has tried calling the seller, but has been unable to reach him.

IDAHO

Newspaper Scam

A Boise area woman reported she received a call from a woman asking her to renew her Idaho Statesman subscription. The woman states she was skeptical of the caller so she looked up her subscription and discovered it didn’t expire until February 2017.

Family Emergency Scam

A Nampa woman reports she was the target of the grandparent scam. She states she received a call from someone claiming to be her grandson who told her he broke his nose after a drunk driving accident. She soon received another call from the “grandsons” attorney asking for $1,750 to post bail. He told the woman to get a MoneyGram from Walmart and send it to them. The woman did so, but the money did not go through. She soon realized the call was a scam. Fortunately, she was able to get her money back from MoneyGram.

MONTANA

Craigslist Scam

A Colstrip resident reports they listed household items on Craigslist and then were contacted by a buyer who sent a check for more than the agreed upon price. They were told to purchase a MoneyGram for the extra money and give it to the “mover” who was supposed to pick up the items. Fortunately, they never cashed the check.

OREGON

Charity Scam

A Beaverton resident reports someone came to their door accepting donations for “Something for Soldiers Sales, LLC.” After giving $68, they looked closer at the receipt and discovered the organization was not a 5013c nonprofit. Law Enforcement agencies have warned residents about this group.

DISH Network Imposter

A White City woman reported she lost $50 after someone impersonated a DISH Network employee. She states a woman came to her door pretending to be selling DISH Network services. She gave the woman a check for $50 for a one-time process fee and her credit card information. After handing over the money she requested the check not be cashed until the third of the next month, however it was cashed the next day.

WASHINGTON

Sweepstakes Scam

A Richland resident reported they received a letter from Liberty Financial Incorporated claiming they had won a second prize of $250,000. The letter included a check from Chase Bank for $3,650. They tell BBB they were asked to pay a $3,500 processing fee. They did not pay the fee.

Employment Scam

A Bellevue woman reports she was contacted by a man using the name “Mark Blackwell,” asking her to be his daughters tutor. The man said he was sending her a check with more than her fee and told her to cash $2,000 of it to give to his daughter’s nanny. She ceased communication with the man.

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About BBB

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Better Business Bureau has been serving consumers and businesses for more than 100 years. That’s more than a century of helping to advance marketplace trust. While you may be familiar with our grading system, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about BBB. So let’s take a look at some of the services and missions we work at every day.

Here are five things you didn’t know about BBB:

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1. We are here for servicemembers and vets. 

The BBB Military Line is a consumer education program that offers a MobileMi$$ion app, which provides resources for vets, active duty and retired military personnel. The app is designed for transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families to help them navigate their finances during the shift from active duty to civilian life. This app provides access to educational activities, a financial mentor, and peer chat support on the go, wherever you are.

Want to speak to someone in person? Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest is available to give presentations to military personnel on scams and identity theft, wise buying, car shopping, buying a home, investing in higher education and much more. Contact our Marketplace Development Team at marketplace@thebbb.org.

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2. Request a Quote

This one is specific to Accredited Businesses only, but is important to note. Once businesses receive accreditation they can install the Request a Quote button on their BBB Business Review page so customers can quickly and easily ask for estimates, information or proposals from the business.

But wait, there’s more. If a customer is looking for a bid, but doesn’t know which company to go with, they can send requests to multiple companies. Find out more at www.bbb.org/northwest/quote.

Email Computer Key For Emailing Or Contacting

3. Serve as mediators. 

BBB has been helping resolve disputes between businesses and consumers for more than a century and whether your company is a small local firm or large national corporation, we are here to share our expertise and experience with you and your customers. A panel of approximately 1,000 professional arbitrators–predominantly attorneys–partner with the BBB system to provide arbitration hearings that are local and yet consistent with overall program mandates. The programs are developed for specific industries, including automotive, telecommunication and moving and storage. This service helps both businesses and customers save time and money when handling legal issues.

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4. We are looking out for our future.   

Teenagers are making economic decisions every day and with advances in technology they are doing a lot of it online. But who is educating them on how to be smart consumers? Our Marketplace Development Team visits high schools across the northwest educating our youth about identity theft, social media safety, scholarships and financial aid. They can come out to your organization and present on these topics. Locally, we host a $10,000 scholarship contest for a high school senior who personifies high ethics, as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic accomplishments.

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5. We investigate scams.

BBB Scam Tracker provides consumers across North America with a place to report scams and fraud and to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities. All 112 BBBs operating in Canada and the United States are collecting information from consumers and processing data, which is shared with law enforcement agencies for use in identifying and prosecuting scammers. Go to bbb.org/scamtracker to see the interactive map and see what scams are happening in your area.

This is just a fraction of the types of services BBB offers. To learn more visit bbb.org/northwest today.

Four Reasons Your Business Should Take Part in a Trade Show

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Trade shows are a great way for customers to find the right business to handle their home repairs or remodeling projects. While they offer a lot for the shopper, what exactly does the shopkeeper get out of it? For many, they get customers, exposure and advice.

If you are afraid your business might get lost in the sea of booths and exhibits, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers you the following reasons why you should consider attending one as soon as possible:

Generate Leads.

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This is your chance to meet customers in-person. Forget relying on a fancy webpage or catchy commercial jingle —you’ll be able to give your sales pitch face-to-face and create a relationship with a person before they even step foot in your store. In fact, if you attend the right type of show you could be seen by thousands of consumers in just one day. *Pro-tip: Set up your booth so your logo is clearly visible and hand out a business card to everyone who stops by, even if all they want is a piece of candy!

Get inspired. 

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See what similar companies are doing. Are they using new technology or offering extended services? You might walk away with a few good ideas to help grow your business. *Pro-tip: Take some time to step away from your booth and talk to other vendors. Talk shop and you may build a business-to-business relationship that can be beneficial to your bottom line. 

Be in the know. 

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Some trade shows offer presentations from special speakers, workshops and even after hours networking events. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge while meeting new people in the industry. *Pro-tip: Be a trade show sponsor and your company logo will have prominence over other businesses. 

Get in the guide, get in their mind

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Many Trade Shows offer guidebooks and maps for visitors. Even if visitors don’t end up hiring a contractor, they’re likely to keep the guide and refer back to it when they are finally ready to make a decision. *Pro-tip: Stand out from the crowd by displaying your BBB Accredited Business Seal. Let shoppers know they can trust you the instant they meet you.

Live in the Portland area? The Portland Fall Home & Garden Show is set to run from Oct. 6 – 9, at the Portland Expo Center. If you want to get your company listed in the guide book, contact the BBB Programs department at 866-459-5222 or email them at programs@thebbb.org. Advertisement space and art must be reserved by Sept. 15, 2016.

Beating Back to School Stress

Editor’s note: This article first ran in the August issue of Torch Talk

Mother Helping Daughter With Homework

The anxiety of returning to school usually hits when I walk into a grocery store and see the shelves lined with spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils and backpacks. Even though I’ve been out of school for years I still can’t help getting a little stressed out at the thought of saying goodbye to summer. Fortunately, my daughter is only three and while she will be starting pre-school in the fall it won’t be as intense as when she’s going to school full-time. So how do working parents keep their sanity while balancing both their careers and their children’s school life?

To ensure your family starts off on the right foot I’ve compiled a few tips to ensure you keep your cool this school year.

KNOW YOUR ROLE

If your family is run likes a sports team —with everyone playing a specific role —you are more likely to be efficient during those stressful times. You know, the ones that remind you of overtimes in the playoffs. So make sure everyone in the family knows what roles they play, from transporting kids to school and activities, to who’s checking homework and starting dinner. Older kids can help by getting themselves ready in the morning or by getting their younger siblings out the door on time. Even younger kids can help by clearing the table at night and feeding the family pets. *Needs some help around the house? Consider hiring a cleaning service to come through to keep your family on track. Check out accredited businesses like A + Sparkle & Shine Cleaning Service in Tacoma.

HAVE BACKUP

What’s your Plan B? You should always have a backup plan in place should someone be unable to fulfill their role. If you suddenly have an early morning meeting scheduled there should be someone available to help out. Having a babysitter on-call is a great way to guarantee everyone is taken care of and you are able to concentrate on your job. *Looking for before and after-school help? There are a number of child care facilities who offer assistance for working families. Look for accredited businesses like Harvard Park Children’s Learning Center North in Spokane. 

DON’T OVERSCHEDULE

Imagine how you feel at the end of a long day of work. By the time 6 p.m. rolls around you’re ready to prop up your feet and settle down with a glass of wine and a little Netflix. Just because kids have more energy than adults, doesn’t mean they don’t require their own time to unwind. When kids are overscheduled with school, tutoring, sports, dance classes and play dates it can cause them to get grouchy. My mother used the term “recharge your batteries” when she would send us to our rooms for a little quiet time. While activities are important for a child make sure they aren’t out of the house too often. Stick with one activity per season so you still have time for studying and some much needed family time. *Want your kid to find fulfillment outside of the classroom? Consider putting them in extra-curricular activities like ballet or karate.  Find accredited businesses like Spectrum II Art and Dance Studio in Idaho.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

At the end of the day if you aren’t making time for your own sanity, no one in your home is going to be happy. So don’t feel guilty about penciling in some “you” time once a month. *Find relaxation by getting a massage or hitting the links! Look for accredited businesses like Milwaukee Massage Therapy and Broadmoor Golf Course in Oregon, both designed to help you fight those back to school blues

July Scams Roundup

Scam Computer Key

The following are some of the scams reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in July. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

Alaska 

Sweepstakes/BBB Affiliation Scam

An Anchorage man reports he received a call from someone named “James Stewart” from American Sweepstakes. The caller wanted the Anchorage man to fill out tax documents in order to deposit the money. The caller also stated he was working with BBB. Better Business Bureau does not offer sweepstakes prizes. Fortunately, the man did not lose any money in the encounter.

Idaho 

Phishing Scam

A Nampa woman reports someone called her home claiming to be with the DISH Network. She was told the company needed to make updates to her software. The woman was prompted by the caller to reveal the last four digits of her social security number in order for them to make the updates. She was then asked to pay a $99 fee. This alerted the woman and she refused to pay the money. She reported the scam to BBB and the Attorney General’s office.

Craigslist Scam

A Boise woman reports she was nearly scammed when she tried to sell her car on Craigslist. The woman states she received an offer from someone claiming to be a Marine in Quantico, Virginia. He wanted to pay through PayPal. The woman reports his texts and email had a lot of misspellings and information he revealed about himself turned out to be untrue. Fortunately, she didn’t complete the transaction with him.

Government Grant Scam

A Nampa woman reports she was notified she had won a government grant for having good credit. She was told she’d receive $7,000, but needed to provide her city, state, zip code and age. The woman stopped speaking with the callers, but continued to receive calls from them throughout the day.

Oregon 

Home Improvement Scam

A Sherwood woman reports she lost $1,100 in a home improvement scam. The woman claims she knew the person doing work on her home and had hired them in the past. She agreed to pay half of the $2,200 cost the home repairs would need. However, she reports the workers avoided her calls and failed to show up to do the repairs.

Advanced Fee Loan Scam

A Hillsboro woman reports she was contacted by Triple Services LLC who said she had outstanding debt from 2011. She states the caller had her personal information including her social security number. The company told her it needed to collect $2,547 for a $500 loan. The Oregon woman reports the callers kept changing the amount of money owed, leading her to believe it was a scam. She reported the company to BBB.

Montana 

Fake Invoice Scam

A Bozeman woman reports she received a large order to her online store. The buyer requested the seller use a different shipping company called DXB Logistics. The Bozeman woman contacted DXB and was told to wire a payment that was higher than the original shipping fees. The seller stopped doing business with the buyer and cancelled the customer order.

Washington 

BBB Affiliation Scam

A Kent business owner reports someone called her company asking to speak with her about her financials. The woman claims the caller was insistent and harassing with her employees. She called the person back and they told her they were working with BBB. However, the caller could not answer her questions truthfully so she ended the conversation.

IRS Scam

An Issaquah woman reports someone called her claiming to be with the IRS. The caller told her there was a warrant out for her arrest for tax evasion, but it would be cleared up if she paid $2,950 in iTunes gift cards. The woman did not pay the money.

BBB On Wright Stuff Radio: Maintaining Customer Relations

Better Business Bureau’s Chief Innovation Officer Dale Dixon joins Brandon Wright on his show Wright Stuff Radio to discuss how to get the most out of your business affiliations.

Other topics include: working with difficult customers and maintaining business relationships.

Wright Stuff Radio connects small businesses through education, business stories, and controversial topics. You can listen every Saturday at 2 p.m. MT on KIDO. BBB is a sponsor of this segment.

Safe Giving After a Tragedy

Written by Veronica Craker, Managing Editor

Giving after a tragedy 8.3.16

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 I found myself watching the news and wondering how I could help. I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi for a short time and still had friends living in the area when the Category Five storm ripped through destroying everything in its path. While watching the news unfold I wondered how I could make a difference. So I opened my wallet and made a small donation to the Red Cross. Prior to that I hadn’t done more than slip extra change into charity buckets sitting next to cash registers or in the red kettles belonging to the Salvation Army during Christmas. With recent tragedies taking place around the world more people than ever are trying to find ways to make a difference. A recent BBB Scam Tracker survey found that one in five people lose money to a scam each year with annual losses estimated at $50 billion.

When a crisis hits, and especially when it hits close to home, we can’t help but feel compelled to do something. Whether its donating blood, giving money or volunteering it’s important to know the most effective way to help out after a tragedy.

In the past year BBB Scam Tracker has seen nearly 200 reports of charity scams in the U.S. and Canada.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest and BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to keep in mind when looking to contribute:

Avoid high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional pleas that do little to explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.

Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donation. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.

Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.

Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.

Look closely at crowdfunding sites. Some crowdfunding sites do their best to verify a posted request is legitimate. But some may be set up by family members of victims, meaning it isn’t a charity, and will go directly into someone’s bank account. Those types of donations make it difficult to know where exactly the money is going and how it is being used.

Charity Navigator released a list of fake charities detailing just how rampant this time of scam can be. For more tips on giving wisely visit www.give.org.