October Scam Wrap-up

Scam Computer Key

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


Healthcare Scam

An Anchorage woman reported she was contacted about healthcare services that may have been a scam. She states she got a phone call from someone asking for her Medicaid information to see if she qualified for healthcare services. The woman believed the call to be a scam to obtain her personal information and reported the call to Scam Tracker.   

Lottery Scam

A Haines man reported he received a card in the mail stating he had an unclaimed reward worth up to $100. He was told to call a toll-free number to claim the winnings or they would be forfeited. He called the number and was told he needed to pay $4.95 over the phone with his credit card. They offered to drop the price to $2.95 since he was a senior. The man did not report whether he paid the charge, but he did report the incident to Scam Tracker.


Government Grant scam

An Idaho Falls man lost $2,300 in a government grant scam. The man states he was told to purchase two iTunes gift cards for $299 and $1,999 and read the numbers over the phone. The caller claimed this would release $11,800, which would be placed in his account. After doing this he was told he needed to purchase another one for $1,200. He has since quit communicating with the caller.

Jury Duty Scam

A Nampa man reported he lost $189.30 after he received a call from someone claiming there was a warrant out for his arrest for not reporting to jury duty. The man believed it to be true as he did ignore a jury duty notice. The man was told to purchase a Green Dot card at Walgreens for $189.30 and go to the Canyon County Court House. He purchased the cards and relayed the Green Dot card number to the caller. The caller told him the card did not work and he needed to go back and get another one. That is when the man realized it was not a legitimate call.


Medical Equipment Scam

A Belgrade Montana woman reports her mother lost $350 after she was contacted by a company selling medical alert systems. The woman states her mother paid $350 over the phone and never received the system. All calls made to the number go directly to voicemail.

Advertising Scam

A Great Falls woman reports the company HS Backers tried to sell her advertising on athletic scoreboards at local high schools. The company claimed to be representing Great Falls High School and C.M. Russell High School. The woman did not purchase advertising and later learned the company does not do business with those schools.


Malware Scam

A Salem woman reported she lost $200 to a malware scam. She states she was using her laptop when a notice appeared on her screen advising her to call tech support. Her computer froze so she called the number. The person who answered claimed to be with JRG Ventures LLC. They told her she needed to pay $149.00 for a “one-time fix” and an additional $50 to help with any further issues.  She soon realized she downloaded malware and was tricked into paying for assistance.

Puppy Scam

A Coos Bay woman reported she lost $600 in a puppy scam. She states she purchased a St. Bernard puppy from www.maxwellsaintbernards.com. After making her payment she was told she needed to send $670 for pet insurance and travel. The company refused to refund her money and she ceased doing business with them.


Online Business Scam

A Kirkland man reported he lost $30 when an online business failed to send him his product. The company website, http://www.slumber.la, ceased communication with the man after his purchase failed to arrive.

Fake Kitten Adoption Scam

A Seattle man reported he came across a fraudulent cat adoption site. The man states the site www.kittensforadoption.us is a phishing scam posting fake numbers and cat pictures to obtain customers personal information.


National Consumer Protection Week

Your ‪BBB‬ is partnering with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to celebrate National Consumer Protection Week from March 1-7. Below, we’ve compiled warning signs and tips on 6 of the most common scams we’ve seen affect local consumers.

Be an informed consumer; avoid scams and fraud!


1. Phishing emails ask for personal info and may contain links to malware. Antivirus software can help, but the best protection is a good sense of judgment. Legitimate companies and government agencies never ask you to confirm personal info via email.


2. Don’t fall victim to an advance-fee loan scam. Check out the company at bbb.org/search. Be skeptical of any offer where you have to pay money up front. Walk away if you’re asked for money immediately, especially if it’s supposedly for “insurance,” “processing,” or “paperwork.”


3. With overpayment scams, a buyer “accidentally” sends you a check for more than the amount they owe. They ask you to deposit it and wire them the difference. The original check turns out to be a fake, leaving you on the hook to pay the bank for any money withdrawn. Always wait for a deposit to clear before writing checks against the funds—it can take weeks to uncover a fake check.


4. Identity theft scams come in all shapes and sizes—grandchildren “stranded” in a foreign country, the hotel front desk “verifying” your credit card in the middle of the night, “charity” solicitations from groups you’ve never supported in the past. Never give your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers to someone who has contacted you to ask for them.

winner5. In a lottery/sweepstakes scam, you get an unsolicited phone call, email or letter stating you’ve won a prize, but in order to collect the winnings, you have to wire a small sum of money to pay for “processing fees” or “taxes.” You never get your “winnings,” and the scammer has your money. You never have to pay to receive legitimate winnings.

Wixphoto.com | FreeRangeStock.com
Wixphoto.com | FreeRangeStock.com

6. Itinerant contractors move around, keeping a step ahead of the law… and angry consumers. They knock on your door with a story or a deal: a roofer spots missing shingles on your roof, a paver has leftover asphalt and can give you a deal on driveway resealing. Then you can’t track them down after they’ve left you with a shoddy or incomplete job. Never agree to do business with someone you haven’t researched first. Start at bbb.org/search.

Go to ncpw.gov to find more consumer tips and free materials from government and private organizations.

Don’t Be Fooled by ‘Tech Support’ Scams

Trojan | © Berishafjolla / Wikimedia Commons /CC-BY-SA-3.0

One of the most common ways in which people unknowingly fall victim to cyber-crime is through computer-related phone scams. According to the most recently available United States Census Bureau data, 75.6 percent of Americans had household computers in 2011. With the population of the U.S. approaching 319 million, there are approximately 241 million potential victims of illegitimate offers to restore and fix computer software issues.

During my time answering public phones at Better Business Bureau I have heard a plethora of stories involving the infamous “tech support” scam, where various technology “support groups” claim to offer fixes for computer malware problems. Don’t be someone who takes the bait!

Reports to BBB indicate that the unsolicited callers mostly claim to be affiliated with Microsoft, while others claim affiliation with Windows Corporation or similar well-known technology companies. However, the callers are not associated with any corporation and they are simply seeking remote access to computers in the hopes of obtaining personal information for identity theft purposes; sometimes, callers require “fees” for their services and ask for prepaid money cards or money transfers. One Washington State man lost more than $10,000 to an illegitimate Microsoft Tech Support offer in 2013.

Of course, the obvious question is: How does a random caller know that my computer has a virus? That question leads to an obvious answer: He doesn’t!

Unfortunately, anti-virus software is no guarantee and it is relatively easy for viruses and malware to end up on computers. BBB recommends having computers checked by legitimate companies if problems arise.

Microsoft is aware of this ongoing scam and is working to notify the public on recognizing fake calls. So, if you do receive a call from tech support, hang up and report it.

The Top Cyberthreats of 2014

CyberThreats 2014

I came across an interesting article from my friends over at ThreatMetrix a few weeks ago that caught my eye—it’s the company’s annual list of what it considers the most important emerging cyberthreats for the upcoming year. I covered last year’s roundup—Cyberthreats of 2013—and was pleased/sorry to see how accurate and insightful the list was, with three of the five items making headlines during the year.

Cybercrime is an interesting phenomenon: On one end of the spectrum is a middle school girl who has her Facebook account hacked and used for cyberbullying, and on the other end is a data breach that compromises millions of credit card numbers costing victims thousands of dollars; the anonymity and scalability of the Internet makes it possible for one singular person to perpetrate both of these crimes.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2014?

The Internet of Things: The world is growing more and more connected every day—from refrigerators to cars to clothes—and the privacy and security implications are startling. Industry analysts estimate that 30 billion devices will wirelessly connect to the Internet by 2020, and while it seems silly to think that a WiFi toothbrush could steal your identity or send spam emails, the probability is increasing.

Critical Infrastructure: Think about the things that we all use on a daily basis: Water, electricity, roads… All of these services rely heavily on computer-based platforms. The battlefield has moved from reality into cyberspace and infrastructure in the United States faces cyber attacks every day. The issue has become so severe that an Executive Order to improve infrastructure cybersecurity was signed in February 2013.

Data Privacy: The National Security Administration’s PRISM program surprised and angered many Americans after it was revealed that their personal information was collected and stored. It is likely that personal information will only grow more desirable in the future—to governments and marketers—and be sought out in less-than-transparent methods.

Alternative Payments: I wrote about Bitcoins last Spring when the value hovered around $47 per Bitcoin—the current value as of this post is approximately $800 per coin—and they are practically mainstream: You can purchase a hotdog and soda at a Sacramento Kings game; buy an electric snow-cone machine from Overstock.com; and book your next trip into space with Virgin Galactic. However convenient and ubiquitous, these types of digital currency are still unregulated and prone to malware.

Mobile Transactions: Mobile transactions are poised to grow by 40 percent in 2014 to nearly $325 billion, but the dangers of unsecure apps and networks are very real. Check out BBB’s August 2012 article: Don’t Be Dumb with Smartphones.

Online Transactions: Just as fast as security experts can shutdown viruses and malware, new threats emerge. If the high-profile data breaches in 2013 are any indication of the future, online bankers and shoppers will need to exercise caution.

If you still don’t believe that cybercrime is a big deal—or if you’re just looking to quit your day job and become a bounty-hunter—check out the FBI’s Most Wanted Cybercriminals who have arrest rewards ranging from $20,000 to $100,000; but you have to split the bounty with me.

Full Disclosure: Overstock.com is a BBB Accredited Business headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.