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.

Work from Home? How to Decide on a Coworking Space

If you decide to go the coworking route, the big question is where. Do you want to be with the hip, entrepreneurial set, or do you prefer something more old-school?  Here are a few tips to help you decide:

Jim Carry on Computer

Be clear on what you want

Do you simply want a professional work environment, or is it a workplace community you’re looking for?  Figuring out exactly what you want from coworking is the first step in choosing your ideal venue.

Identify your ideal working environment

Some people can’t tolerate a pin dropping when they’re trying to meet a deadline, while others only get into their groove when they feel the bustle of daily life going on around them.  To identify your ideal working environment, ask yourself how much desk space you need, whether you’d love a gorgeous view, and ultimately whether you can tolerate the sound of other people’s clicking keyboards.

Consider the costs

Deciding how much to invest in an office space is always a consideration for a freelancer or small business owner.  Most facilities offer various tiers of membership tailored to different budgets and can start as affordably as $200 a month for “floating” desk space (you park your computer where you find an empty tabletop each day). Such memberships still include Internet, coffee, and educational trainings, but paying more can buy you a permanent desk, meeting space when needed, and various other perks such as access to on-site gyms or a transit pass.

Find your peeps

If building a workplace community and networking feature high on your reasons for coworking, think carefully about whom you’d want to share your office with.  Several coworking spaces attract distinct groups—computer programmers, creatives, designers, entrepreneurs, for example—leaving you to decide whether you want to meet people who are in a line of business similar to yours or who are refreshingly different.

Commitment or flexibility? 

Some venues offer full-time-only options whereas others accommodate people who prefer to work and pay on a part-time basis.  Some packages buy you assigned desk and locker space, while others may entail playing musical chairs every day. Choosing the best option depends on your budget, the nature of your work (try lugging that full-screen monitor around every day), and how much coworking time you need.

Location, location

Maybe all you care about is the length of your commute, or perhaps you think the right community is worth a longer trip. The good news is that coworking spaces are dotted throughout the region, meaning that most of us don’t have to travel far to get some focused work done and beat isolation.

Overwhelmed by your options? Just try them out. Nearly all coworking facilities offer a free day’s trial.

Be a Smart Consumer on Social Media

It’s no surprise that businesses have moved into the social media sphere to connect with their customers and to try to reach out to new ones. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms offer a fantastic meeting place for consumers to learn more about a business’ services, specials, and general information.

Social media can also be a place where consumers get duped by people running scams or click-baiting through fake accounts, though. Here are some helpful tips for consumers who are interested in safely connecting with businesses online:

How to Like on Facebook

  1. Make sure you’re visiting the right accounts. If a company has active social media accounts, chances are good that those accounts are linked to their website. Use those links to ensure that you’re getting to real accounts that will offer truthful information.
  2. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You’ve probably seen those Facebook or Instagram pictures around that claim that if you share a specific post, you’ll receive a gift card for a large sum of money. Look out! These posts often come from fake accounts that have been built to look like a major brand’s account. Check back to the company’s website to ensure that you’re on their real account.
  3. Don’t offer up unnecessary information. If a business is asking you to share your credit card number, social security number, or other private information on a public page, be wary! If you were in fact to win a prize on social media, the business will insist that you communicate via private message or phone, and they will not ask for sensitive information.
  4. Look out for sensationalized videos. Oftentimes, scammers will post videos on social media as “click-bait.” These videos tend to have exaggerated headlines and often claim to have a new angle on a current event. Make sure the videos you click on come from a verified source and that you’re not asked to provide any information in order to view the video.
  5. It’s OK to enter verified contests, but read through the rules. Businesses run real contests on their social media accounts every day, and entering can be a fun way to interact with a brand. Make sure you glance over the rules, though. In many cases, entering a contest with your mailing address or email address means that a company will be able to send you promotional materials. If you’re not interested in that, then you may not want to enter the contest.

Enjoy Pokemon GO… with Caution

In just a few days, Pokemon GO has become the most downloaded phone app in the U.S. The app, which uses mapping software to create a virtual reality game, is getting children and adults out and about in their neighborhoods to “catch” the game characters as they pop up on phone screens from various locations.

Although the game can be a blast, BBB is warning players and parents to be aware of some nuances that go with GO.

Jim Gaffigan Phone

Expenses: It’s possible to play completely cost-free by winning “PokeCoins” (the app’s currency) through gameplay, but you can also purchase the coins through an in-app purchase. The longer you play, the more spending money you need to store and “train” your gathered characters. The app also requires constant GPS access, and it uses a lot of data. After playing for hours every day, consumers with limited data plans may find themselves with a hefty bill at the end of the month.

Privacy: In order to play the game, users must allow the app to access other applications, such as maps and camera. Many users sign in with a Google account, and that has caused some concerns about privacy. The Android version of the game only accesses limited data (such as the user’s email address), but the iOS version for the iPhone can access all Google data. Niantic, the game’s maker, says no personal information has been accessed, and it is issuing a bug fix to correct the problem. Users can create an account through the app itself rather than using an email address to access the game.

Malware: So far, the app is only available in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, which has given cybercriminals an opportunity to capitalize on the demand. A malware version of the game has been found online; although no known infections have been reported. Users should only download the app through official app stores, not third-party sites.

Safety: Players should use the same safety precautions while playing the game that they would in any other outdoor setting, including caution in strange locations. A Missouri police department reported robbers using a secluded “PokeStop” location to rob unsuspecting game players. Players should be cautious as pedestrians and obey all traffic laws, and drivers should be on the lookout for children who may be distracted by the game. The app also drains phone batteries, so users should be careful not to get stranded far from home.

Infringement: PokeStops are supposed to all be on public property (or cooperative private sites), but at least one homeowner has reported that his historic house is mistakenly a PokeStop. Players should be respectful of others’ private property. Future commercial opportunities are anticipated, where stores can offer rare or unique characters to add to the game.

“Ugly” Instagram Con Leads to Hacking

Instagram users are reporting a new scam called the “Ugly List.” Instagram users are fooled into thinking a friend tagged them in a mean-spirited prank. However, it’s really a phishing con.

instagram

 
How the Scam Works:

You get an Instagram notification saying you’ve been tagged in a post. The catch? The post is called “Ugly List 2016,” and it was a friend who tagged you. How mean!

In the notification, there’s a link to see the full post. You click on it, and it leads to a page that appears to be the Instagram log in. You need to enter your username and password before you can see the “Ugly List.”

Don’t fall for it! The form is fake. It’s a way for scammers to steal usernames and passwords. Once scammers have your account info, they will hack your Instagram and tag your followers in new “Ugly List” posts, perpetuating the con and stealing more information.

Tips to avoid this con:

Do a quick search. Be wary of anything that is shocking or sensational on social media. If it seems suspicious, do an online search. If it’s a scam, chances are that other victims have posted complaints and information online.

Don’t trust your friends’ tastes online. It might not actually be them “liking” or sharing these scam posts. Their account may have been hacked.

Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.

Report an Instagram scam. Check out Instagram’s resources for reporting scams.

If your account has been hacked, see Instagram’s advice on securing your account and/or reporting the violation.

For More Information

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).

Going on vacation? What are you going to do with your pets?

As families gear up for their summer vacation, our friends at the Better Business Bureau Serving E. MA, ME, RI & VT offers advice for pet owners looking for a safe place to house their furry friend.

Last year, consumers inquired to BBB about pet boarding and kennels over 153,800 times. Many consumers also filed complaints about boarding facilities, some that alleged problems with billing, as well as concerns about the treatment of their pet.

“When I look for a boarding kennel for my puppy, I look for one that gives her quality care as well as peace of mind for me while I’m away,” said Paula Fleming, Vice President of the BBB Serving E. MA, ME, RI & VT. “I try to always plan ahead and do my homework to find a kennel that will provide my pet with the care she deserves.”

pupy falling over

BBB recommends the following tips as a guide to finding a trustworthy kennel this summer:

Plan ahead to make sure you get your first choice. You’ll probably need to make a reservation well in advance, especially if you want to board your pet during holidays or popular vacation times.

Ask for recommendations. Turn to friends and family members who own animals or who your veterinarian recommendations. Check with BBB for Accredited kennels listed on our Accredited Business Directory. Make sure to check out their BBB Business Review before making a final decision.

Personally visit the facilities. Check for cleanliness and note the overall safety of the kennel and cages. Ask to see all of the places your pet may be taken. If your pet is prone to running away, ask about steps the kennel takes to make the facility secure.

Ask about interactions between animals. Some kennels let animals play together while others keep them separate at all times. Make sure the facility requires that all entering pets have proof of immunization. Also ask about its policies regarding flea and tick control.

Take notice of the staff. Ask about the background and experience of company staff and take a few moments to see how they interact with the other pets that are being boarded.

Ask if you can bring food or toys. Bringing your pet’s own food to a kennel may reduce the chance of diarrhea or upset stomach. Also check to see if the kennel allows you to bring any special toys, blankets, treats, or bedding for your pet.

Thoroughly read the boarding agreement. Verify it includes the feeding and exercise schedule as well as pick up and drop off hours. Some facilities offer bathing, nail trimming and immunization as additional services. Make sure these and any other additional fees, like medical emergencies or other care, are included in the agreement.

Have a backup plan. Make sure you have a local friend, family member or veterinarian you can trust in case of emergencies.

Helpful Resources to Enhance Safe Driving By Your Employees

Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. And, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. The type of company or job doesn’t matter; the risk is there. Protect your organization’s most valuable asset — your employees — by promoting safe driving practices. The following 10 safe driving practices can significantly reduce the risks faced by workers when they drive on the job.

Kramer Driving

1. Inspect the vehicle. Check the lights, gauges, brakes, horn, tires, windshield wipers, fluids, belts and mirrors.

2. Secure cargo such as tools and other equipment.

3. Buckle up. A seatbelt reduces risk of death by 45 percent in cars and by 60 percent in light trucks.

4. Drive defensively.

5. Avoid distractions. Put down the cell phone and do not text.

6. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds while driving.

7. Avoid impairment.

8. Avoid aggressive driving.

9. Maintain a safe distance between moving vehicles and slow down during inclement weather.

10.Take security measures. Carry vehicle information at all times, secure the vehicle and avoid parking lots with poor lighting or sightlines.

 

Pinnacol Resources

Visit Pinnacol’s Safety Services page on defensive driving. The many resources on this webpage for policyholders include a sample driving and traffic violation policy, defensive driving quizzes, a vehicle safety checklist, a seatbelt safety poster, a short defensive driving video and additional tools and tips to enhance the motor vehicle safety of your employees. Also, call Pinnacol’s Safety On Call hotline at 303-361-4700 or 888-501- 4752. Our Safety Services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your workers safe behind the wheel

Post Provided by: Pinnacol Assurance

8 Tips for Improving Your Small Business Website

Website management professional, Michael Vaughn from Artemesia Technologies gives his tips on  some key elements for a creative and appealing business website:

Simpsons Homepage

  1. Know your audience. Who is your customer and what type of information are they going to want when looking at your website?
  2. Create your brand guide. Your brand and image are the heartbeat of your company, make sure your color palate, logo, and word choice all properly reflect your company and mission.
  3. Tell your story. Evoke emotion with your customers; tell them what your business is all about.
  4. Build your website. Lay out what sections and information need to be on the site and how consumers will navigate it.
  5. Choose your technical skills wisely. Depending on your website needs, look to established companies like WordPress, GoDaddy, Google Analytics, and Constant Contact.
  6. Formulate your SEO strategy. How will you use Search Engine Optimization to increase the traffic to your site?
  7. Create your social media plan. Pad your website with social media platforms; connect with your consumers in more ways.
  8. Assemble your content. Images evoke emotion while text requires discipline. For an appealing website, use pictures of your company or employees that make your company relatable. No one wants to visit a website and just read text.
Gif Courtesy: Simpsons/Giphy.com/FoxStudios/Tumblr.com

BBB Offers Ten Giving Tips for Orlando Tragedy

Arlington, VA – In the wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, the BBB Serving Central Florida and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, caution donors about potential red flags in fund raising to help Orlando victims and their families, and to be aware of the different circumstances that often emerge in tragedy-related philanthropy.

“Tragedy inspires people to give, and this terrible tragedy is drawing incredible response already from people all around the world” said H. Art Taylor, President & CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance “The best way to help the victims, their families, and the people of Orlando is to make sure that donations end up where they belong. We are already hearing about click-bait schemes and questionable solicitations, and we expect there will numerous scams and frauds. We urge those generous donors to give wisely so their gifts can do the most good.”

Holly Salmons, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Florida, notes that “The world has rushed to support the City Beautiful and the victims on this heinous crime. We encourage those who want to show their support through donations to do so with caution. Scammers depend on heightened emotion and often follow closely behind tragic events.”

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are “Ten Tips for Giving with Confidence”

1. Thoughtful Giving

Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.

2. State Government Registration

About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

3. Respecting Victims and Their Families

Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the Colorado movie theater victims did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.

4. How Will Donations Be Used?

Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund?

Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)

6. Advocacy Organizations

Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.

7. Online Cautions

Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.

8. Financial Transparency

After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

9. Newly Created or Established Organizations

This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.

10. Tax Deductibility

Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.