Pokémon GO Players Fall for Phishing Con

The sudden success of Pokémon GO has scammers cooking up ways to cash in on the app’s popularity. The latest is a phishing email that fools victims into thinking they need to pay for the game.

How the Scam Works: 

You receive an email addressed to Pokémon GO players. The message reads: “due to the overwhelming response to our new Pokémon GO app and the need for more powerful servers we can no longer afford to keep your account as free.” The developers are now charging $12.99 a month, and your account will be frozen if you don’t upgrade.

The email urges you to click a link, log in to the app store and purchase the “full version.” Don’t do it! The log-in form isn’t run by an official app store or Ninatic Labs, the game’s developers. It’s on a third party site, and it is a way to steal users’ passwords.

Unfortunately, this is not the only Pokémon GO scam out there. Before the app launched, scammers lured victims with the promise of getting early beta test access to the game. Then, a fake version of the game appeared in some app stores. As long as the app stays popular, scammers will devise new ways to fool players. 

How to Spot a Phishing Scam:

Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.

Check the reply email address. One easy way to spot an email scam is to look at the reply email. The address should be on a company domain, such as jsmith@company.com.

Don’t believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers can fake anything from a company logo to the “Sent” email address. 

Consider how the organization normally contacts you. If an organization normally reaches you by mail, be suspicious if you suddenly start receiving emails or text messages without ever opting in to the new communications.  

Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Be especially wary of messages you have not subscribed to or companies you have never done business with in the past.

For More Information

Read Variety’s coverage of the scam on their website.

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker). 

“Invulnerability Illusion” Means Millennials More Likely to Get Scammed than Boomers

The stereotype of the “little old lady” as scam victim is wrong, and Millennials are actually more vulnerable to scams than Baby Boomers. That’s the conclusion of new research by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute). Marketplace scams affect one in four North American households each year at an estimated loss to individuals and families of $50 billion, yet most consumers believe they are invulnerable.

“This research is so vital, not only to stop scammers from hurting consumers, but to help businesses,” said Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). “That $50 billion ‘underground’ economy is stealing from the legitimate marketplace. Every dollar lost to a scam is a dollar not spent at a lawful, trustworthy business.”

The research, Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion: Stereotypes, Optimism Bias, and the Way Forward for Marketplace Scam Education, is based on a survey of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada. Participants were asked about their perceived vulnerability to scams, who they think is most likely to be scammed, and about the factors that helped them to avoid being scammed. The participants did not know that BBB was the sponsor of the survey.

Download “Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion” at BBB.org/TruthAboutScams

“We’ve bought into stereotypes about scam victims – they’re usually seen as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated,” noted the paper’s co-author Emma Fletcher, product manager with the BBB Institute, CBBB’s foundation. “These stereotypes are strongly held… and they are wrong. We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed.”

“Optimism bias – the idea that we all think other people are more vulnerable than we are – is associated with risk-taking and failure to heed precautionary advice,” said co-author Rubens Pessanha, CBBB director of marketing research and insights. “Seniors may be the one group that does not suffer from optimism bias when it comes to scams. They’ve heard, loud and clear, that they are at risk. Seniors may very well be more scam savvy than others. They are also less impulsive buyers than younger consumers, and less likely to be making purchases online where so many scams take place.”

The new research also confirms some trends noted in BBB Scam Tracker, a crowd-sourced reporting tool. More than 30,000 consumers have reported details of scams to BBB since the site was launched in late 2015, and reports are shared with law enforcement to drive investigations. Of those consumers reporting scams to BBB Scam Tracker, 89% of seniors (age 65 and up) recognized the scam in time, while only 11% reported actually losing money. For those age 18-24, however, more than three times as many failed to recognize the scam – 34% reported losing money. Armed with this information, BBB is calling for a new direction for how society approaches the problem of fraud. The report recommends a three-pronged approach:

  1. Leverage Technology, Crowdsourcing and Altruism: Targets of scams feel empowered when they can take back some control by reporting what has happened to them in order to help warn others. This altruistic impulse is the number one motivator for reporting scams. As noted in the report, “The voices and stories of others have the potential to normalize the problem in a positive way, shedding the shame and stigma of victimization with the message that, if it can happen to other people like me, it can happen to me.”
  1. Take Aim at the Optimism Bias: Consumer education must heighten perceptions of personal risk and provide information that boosts confidence in one’s ability to protect oneself. Motivation to take protective action requires both the sense that one is vulnerable and the tools to do something about it. Effective public education must take a twofold approach; it must confront its audience with messaging that runs counter to stereotypes and perceived invulnerability, while simultaneously providing information that empowers individuals to avoid becoming victims.
  1. Provide Preemptive Information: Survey participants, when asked what might have prevented them from being scammed, said knowing about different scam types and understanding common methods used by scammers prior to being targeted would have helped. Nearly 80% of respondents identified one of these two factors as most protective; only one in five felt doing research after being approached by a scammer was most protective.

Renting? Make Sure the Place Really Exists Prior to Signing…

If you are hunting for an apartment on Craigslist, watch out for rental cons. A new report from New York University explores just how common these scams are.

Spoiler alert: they are everywhere.

Homer Rent

How the Scam Works:

You are looking at Craigslist apartment listings for a new place to live. You know that scams are common on the site, but just how prevalent are they? Very, according to the NYU researchers. Craigslist fails to identify more than half of rental scam listings, and suspicious posts linger for as long as 20 hours before being taken down.
Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for-rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities. Of those, there were three key types of scams. In the first, a fake post instructs a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.
In another scheme, con artists duplicate rental listings from other sites and post on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer. Another pervasive scam is “realtor service” companies. Targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

How to Spot a Rental Scam:

• Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash – once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
• Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
• See the property in person: Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
• Don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
• Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.

 

GIF courtesy giphy.com & SimpsonsWorld.com

You’ve Been Hit with Hail, Now What?

If you spend any time in Colorado, you are bound to hear the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”.   Colorado is famous for weather changing sporadically, and with dramatic shifts in air pressure and temperature the result can sometimes be treacherous hail.

In fact, per the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Colorado ranks second only to Texas for the number of insurance claims filed due to hail strikes on homes, property and cars in the past three years.

With the abundance of hail storms, consumers need to be weary of “storm chasers” or fraudsters that scam victims by making false promises to consumers who are looking to repair hail damage.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips when looking to repair automobiles or roofs.

General Tips

  • Get more than one estimate.
  • Don’t be pressured in signing a contract right away or at your doorstep
  • Always check with BBB, findacompany.org and request quotes from BBB Accredited Businesses
  • If you come across a faulty business, visit bbb.org/scamtracker/denver/ to help warn others of illegal scheme or fraud

Roofers

  • Get everything in writing
    • Cost, work to be done, time schedule, payment schedule and other expectations
  • Never sign a contract with blanks
  • Wait to pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is truly completed
  • Avoid giving a down payment unless special materials are being ordered
  • Ask if the company uses their own workers or if they hire individual, third-party subcontractors.
    • Know exactly who is working on your roof and who is responsible if something goes wrong
  • Verify applicable licensing and permits with your city and county
  • Always ensure that before you sign a contract it meets the terms set in Colorado Senate Bill 38
    • Contractors contact information
    • Scope of work and materials provided
    • Approximate dates of service and cost of materials/service
    • Roofers surety and liability coverage insurer and contact information
    • 72 hour right to rescind
    • Contractor cannot in away way pay, waive or rebate all or part of the insurance deductible
    • Contractor will hold in trust any payment until the majority of the work is performed or materials are delivered to the residence
    • 72 hour right to rescind after the insurance claim is denied.

Automobile

  • If under warranty, follow the manufacturer’s requirements to keep your warranty in effect
  • Make sure any certificates advertised are recently obtained and then independently verify this information
  • When receiving estimate, ask the service consultant to explain all work completed
  • Be sure warranty information is included in writing on the repair order.

Hail on Roof

Festival Goers Fooled by Fake Tickets and Events

This summer, don’t fall for a festival scam. Scammers are tempting would-be festival goers into buying tickets for events promising all-you-can-eat crabs, live music and other fun. But in reality, either the ticket or the event itself is fake.

Festival Picture

How the Scam Works:

You see a great deal on tickets to a summer festival in your city, usually through a social media link. For a reasonable entrance fee, the festival offers delicious food such as all-you-can-eat crabs, live music, and/or craft beer and wine. You click the link, and it takes you to a website to buy tickets. Just enter your credit card information, and you are set.

Don’t do it! Better Business Bureaus across North America have reported fake festival sign-ups. Victims purchase tickets and show up at the time and location, only to find a crowd of frustrated ticket holders. Other times, the festival is real, but the tickets are fake.

How to Spot a Fake Festival Scam:

Do your research before purchasing. Search online for the name of the festival and make sure the name advertised matches the website. Scammers often use names that sound similar to those of real festivals.

Check for (working) contact information: Be sure the festival website has a phone number and email address.

Prices too good to be true: There is no way a festival can offer tickets at extremely low prices without losing money. If the prices are much lower than elsewhere, it’s likely a scam.

What Can You Do?

Pay with a credit card: You can dispute the charges if the business doesn’t come through. Be wary of online sellers that don’t accept credit cards.

Look for secure sites: The website should begin with https (the extra “s” is for secure) and have a little lock symbol on the address bar.

Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist and other free online listings:  Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts. Check out third-party ticket sites at bbb.org before making purchases.

For More Information

Learn more about festival scam in the Federal Trade Commission’s recent alert.  To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

Looking to Sell Stuff Online? Be Careful…

If you sell items online, watch out for this con. Scammers are fooling sellers with fake emails that appear to be payment confirmation messages from PayPal.

Monkey Computer

How the Scam Works

You post a big-ticket item (vehicle, computer, furniture) for sale on Craigslist, eBay or another online sales site.An interested buyer contacts you and says that he or she wants to buy the item right away and arranges to meet for the exchange.

When you arrive, however, the buyer doesn’t have cash. Instead, they claim to have sent the money through PayPal. You check your email and, sure enough, you have what appears to be a message from PayPal confirming the transfer. The scammer may even claim that the transfer is “invisible,” and that’s why you can’t see it in your PayPal account.

Of course, there is no such thing as an “invisible” transfer. The scammer didn’t send any money, and is just trying to take your item without paying. Some versions of this scam also have an overpayment twist.  In these, the scammer “accidentally” overpays you for the item. For example, he or she “sends” you $2,000 payment for the item you are selling for $200.  Then, he or she requests that you wire back the difference. By the time you figure out the PayPal transfer was a fake, the scammer is long gone.

Tips to avoid online sales scams:

  • Don’t accept checks or money orders: When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept cash or credit card payments.
  • Do not accept overpayments: When selling on Craigslist, eBay or similar sites, don’t take payments for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you.
  • Always confirm the buyer has paid before handing over the item. Don’t take the buyer’s word for it.
  • Be wary of individuals claiming to be overseas. In many different types of scams, con artists claim to be living abroad to avoid in person contact. Consider this a red flag.
  • Meet sellers/potential buyers in person and in a safe place: Meet in a public area and never invite buyers/sellers into your home. Ask your local police department if they have a “safe lot” program. Even if they don’t, suggesting the parking lot or lobby of a police station as a meeting place might be enough to scare off a scammer.

For More Information

Read more about selling on eBay, including what to do when sellers don’t pay. Also, check out Craigslist’s resources about avoiding scams when selling on the site.
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

 

Tax Scam Explodes This Week

Better Business Bureau offices across the U.S. are seeing a big increase this week in reports of the “tax imposter scam” (also called the “IRS scam”), which was the top scam reported to BBB last year. Con artists are posing as IRS agents and calling consumers claiming they owe back taxes. Targets are instructed to send money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, or face terrifying consequences such as arrest, lawsuits, and fines.

In the past year, BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) received more than 6,200 reports of tax collector imposter scams in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that more than 5,000 victims have lost more than $26 million in the past two years as a result of the scam. Although the scam does not seem to be targeting Canadian citizens this week, tax imposters are the top scam in Canada, too.

Tax imposters often go to great lengths to seem realistic. Over the phone, the scammer may provide a fake badge number and name. Emails often use the agency’s logo, colors, and official-sounding language.

BBB’s advice is to hang up on the caller or delete the email.

How to Spot a Tax Impostor Scam: 

Here are some ways to spot a fake tax collector.

  • It’s the first you’ve heard about the debt. Tax agencies don’t call, text, or email without first contacting you by mail. If you’ve never received a letter about past due taxes, the “agent” is most likely a scammer.
  • You are pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The government will give you the chance to ask questions or appeal what you owe.
  • Payment must be made by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or other non-traditional payment methods. These methods are largely untraceable and non-reversible. Tax agencies don’t demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.

Additional Resources:

U.S.: If you owe taxes or you think you might, contact the IRS at 800.829.1040 or irs.gov. IRS employees at that line can help you if there really is an issue. Also check out the IRS’s list of imposter scams.

Canada: Check out the CRA’s fraud webpage for their contact information and details on accessing your online account.

Check out millions of BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org. File a complaint, give a customer review, report a scam, read our blog, follow us on social media, and more!

tax-scam

Ecuador Earthquake Donation Tips

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With hundreds killed and thousands injured by the devastating earthquake in Ecuador over the weekend, generous Americans are already seeking ways to support those in need through donations. BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors to avoid being taken advantage of by questionable solicitations or wasting their money on poorly managed relief efforts.

“The news out of Ecuador is heartbreaking,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “People want to help as soon as possible, and that is wonderful, but donors need to follow some key rules about supporting disaster relief so that their gifts get to those who need them most.”

Across the world, relief and development organizations and governments have begun responding to the earthquake in Ecuador. American charities have also begun accepting donations to assist in the region. BBB WGA suggests that before you choose a charity to give to, read this Disaster Relief Donations tip (below) and remember to check out the charity on Give.org.

BBB WGA has a list of nationally soliciting charities that have been accredited by BBB WGA (i.e., meet all 20 BBB Charity Standards), and indicate that they are collecting contributions to assist Ecuador relief efforts. The list, which will be updated as more charities join the efforts, is available at bbb.org/ecuador

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers donors these tips for disaster relief giving:

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Don’t Get Fouled When Trying to Attend March Madness Games

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament schedule was announced this past Sunday and official brackets determined. Congratulations to the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes Men’s Basketball team for making it into the tournament!

The Pepsi Center will be hosting the first and second rounds of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest bracket this week. If you are planning to cheer on the Buff’s in Des Moines, Iowa or even attend another game, make sure your March Madness experience does not get fouled.

Most problems lie in transactions with private dealers, mostly on websites like Craigslist and eBay. Ticket seekers in the past have been taken by wire transfer scams and non-delivery of tickets and have been turned away from games because their tickets turned out to be fakes.

BBB offers the following tips to help fans avoid being ripped off:

  • If you buy a ticket outside the event’s website, check for any refund or guarantee policies. Research the ticket site or seller to see if it provides any buyer protections, such as money-back guarantees if tickets are fake or do not arrive on time.
  • Be wary of ticket offers at extreme discount prices – these are generally too good to be true.  Buy at your own risk if you choose to use sites like Craigslist that offer no guarantees or seller identification. NEVER wire funds to strangers to pay for tickets. Try to meet in-person if possible. Always use a credit card for extra protections if the tickets are fake or you do not receive them.
  • The NCAA advises fans to buy from their website, or host schools ticket offices. The NCAA Ticket Exchange is the only 100% guaranteed, NCAA-approved secondary ticket marketplace that allows fans to buy and sell NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tickets with other fans. Ticket holders who are unable to attend a game or find their team eliminated has a place to safely sell their tickets, and buyers can be assured that the tickets are authentic and guaranteed. Visit towww.ncaa.com/tickets.
  • Report any suspected ticket scams to local law enforcement and your BBB so that others can be warned.

Dream Vacation or a Nightmare?

As you dream of summer fun, we are reminding consumers of vacation scams that can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare.

The BBB has tips for avoiding vacation scams:

Don’t believe everything that you see. The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate hotel or booking site, but that can be easily copied from the real website.  Check out the company on bbb.org to see what others are saying.

Get everything in writing.  Before providing any form of payment, get everything in writing. Make sure all verbal agreements are also provided in writing. Review all terms and conditions, taxes and fees, and cancellation policies.

Don’t pay upfront.  Never pay upfront, or with a wire transfer or prepaid debit card for any vacation package or rental. Use a credit card or PayPal in case the charges need to be disputed.

Verify reservations. Follow-up directly with the airline, rental car company, hotel and/or cruise line to confirm arrangements have actually been made to your specifications. It may even be a good idea to search the web for the address of the vacation rental property or, if renting a home or condominium for a week, the place where you will be picking up the keys.  Unfortunately, in some situations, victims of travel scams have discovered that reservations were never made and were provided fake confirmation numbers.

Look out for fake contact info. Some consumers report calling the 1-800 number posted on a scam hotel booking site to confirm its legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the hotel.

Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (brandwebsite.net or brandwebsite.co)

Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with “HTTPS” and has a lock icon.

Watch for too-good-to-be-true deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere.