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According to a 2013 survey by BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses; this is up from 76 percent in 2012. The same survey also found that 73 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more, which is up from 58 percent just one year prior.
These numbers will continue to…
TIMESHARE COMPANY ACCUSED OF SWINDLING CONSUMERS OUT OF THOUSANDS
BBB Issues Alert against Classic Connections Travel Company Inc
September 10, 2014 — Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has received a recent pattern of complaints regarding the sales and advertising practices of Classic Connections Travel Company Inc in Tukwila, Wash. The company’s website appears to provide information on vacation packages, but consumers allege they have been conned out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a complaint to BBB, one consumer says he lost $156,000 to the company. “I want the contract either honored and finalized or my money back,” he said.
Consumers say it starts with a phone call from a CCTC operator saying he represents a buyer who is interested in purchasing the customer’s Mexican timeshare property. The company promises no up-front fees to complete the transaction, consumers report. However, victims allege just before the deal closes, CCTC claims the Mexican government now requires prepayment for taxes and fees.
Complaints filed with BBB reveal the company repeatedly requests consumers to wire thousands of dollars to cover these supposed fees. Victims have paid amounts ranging from $2,350 to $156,000. After paying, they say CCTC no longer responds to their phone calls or emails. Complaints against the business come from consumers all over the country, including Idaho and California.
“We cannot get anyone to call us back or even email us…We are out over $6,000 including wire transfer fees,” another complainant said.
Additionally, BBB has learned CCTC is not licensed for timeshare or real estate transactions in Washington.
BBB urges timeshare owners to be on alert anytime a business claims to have a buyer for them, especially if the property is not listed for sale.
- Gather the facts. Make sure the company is who it claims to be. Check to see if it is properly licensed and consider its BBB Business Review.
- Read reviews. Research the business to see what other people are saying about their own experiences. Look for verified Customer Reviews from BBB.
- Be wary of wire transfers. Businesses who ask for wire transfers or payments via a prepaid debit card should raise red flags. Never wire money to a stranger.
- Avoid upfront fees. Legitimate companies typically take their fees after the sale is done or deduct it from the sale price. Do not pay for a promise.
Better Business Bureau advises consumers to report suspicious business activity. If a business appears to be dishonest and will not work to resolve concerns, file a complaint at BBB.org. And stay connected with the latest consumer alerts and warnings at BBB’s Social Hub.
The poor handling of a customer’s grievance can be one of the easiest ways to destroy an otherwise impeccable reputation.
LOTTERY SCAM LURES VICTIMS WITH ‘MEGA MILLIONS’
BBB Warns of Calls from Area Code 876
August 20, 2014 — “You’ve won millions!” That’s the bait from the latest Jamaican lottery scam. The caller tells the “winner” all he needs to do is pay a few thousand dollars in taxes and fees then the Mega Millions Jackpot is his to keep. The problem is, once the victim pays up, the caller will take the money and run.
Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns the public to beware of calls from area code 876. The caller often claims to be a lottery official from Jamaica and explains the only way the “winner” can collect is to first pay taxes via a prepaid debit card. The scammer then asks for the card information and pin and drains the account before disappearing.
The Jamaican lottery scam has already cost consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars, sparking alerts from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Some victims even report being threatened with physical harm if they don’t agree to pay the fees.
Homer, an 80-year-old resident of Vancouver, Wash., said he almost became a victim of a similar scam from a European sweepstakes that offered him thousands of dollars, but he was sharp enough to not fall for it. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. Homer is available for interviews with local media.
In the Pacific Northwest this year, BBB has received 74 complaints of lottery and sweepstakes scams. BBB reminds consumers to follow four important steps in order to avoid falling victim.
- Enter to win. Participants need to buy a ticket or complete an application in order to win a contest or lottery. “Winners” should be especially careful if they never entered a contest.
- Verify first. Check if an offer is real, but don’t call the phone number in the email or website of the alleged contest. If it is a trick, chances are the person on the other line will be involved, too. Consumers can call BBB for assistance.
- Don’t pay for the prize. Winners should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.
- Join the “do not call list.” Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. This won’t stop scams entirely, but it can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive.
BEWARE OF CHARITY RIP-OFFS FOLLOWING WILDFIRES
WA Officials Partner to Help Relief Efforts, Encourage Wise Giving
DuPont, Wash. — July 30, 2014 — With relief efforts underway in Washington’s Carlton Complex fire, Better Business Bureau along with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman urge consumers to be on the lookout for bogus charities and scammers trying to capitalize on a natural disaster.
Officials warn of slick con artists who pose as agents for official-sounding charities and target well-intentioned donors who want only to help the victims of the fires.
While BBB, the Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State sympathize with the victims and their loved ones during this tragic time, all three organizations urge donors to give wisely.
- Beware of demanding solicitors. Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics and requests for immediate donations. Take time to research the charity and make up your mind.
- Use qualified charities. Check to see if the charity has the resources necessary and is equipped to help with disaster relief; otherwise, donations may be not be as effective.
- Pay with care. Avoid cash donations; write a check directly to the charity, not the fundraiser; and never give out credit card numbers over the phone.
- Verify. Steer clear of “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information.
- Block fake solicitations. Watch out for requests from fake “victims” or memorial social media accounts.
Better Business Bureau, the Washington Attorney General and the Secretary of State advise consumers to contact potential charities directly. For more information on finding charities, visit the Secretary State “Information for Donors” page or call 1-800-332-4483, BBB.org or Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Consumers can also visit the SOS website for tips on giving wisely. If someone feels they are the victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
AVOID THE BLITZ BY BLOCKING FAKE TICKET OFFERS
BBB Warns of Scams as Hawk Tickets Go on Sale
July 21, 2014 — As single-game tickets for the Seahawks go on sale Monday, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns fans to be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals.
Online classified ads list thousands of sports tickets, but BBB reminds shoppers that oftentimes there are no guarantees, and sellers don’t have to provide identification to list tickets. With high prices and diehard fans, it is certain that fraudsters will try to hustle fake tickets.
Before plucking down cash or giving credit card numbers, review BBB’s advice to Hawk fans:
- Play smart. Use credit when buying game tickets; if the tickets don’t arrive or turn out to be fakes, charges can be disputed.
- Pass up offers to wire money. Con artists often use classified websites such as Craigslist to post non-existent tickets, and then ask for payment to be wired.
- Call an audible. If the tickets appear suspicious, walk away. Look for smeared ink, uneven edges and flimsy paper. Always research ticket sellers first at bbb.org.
- Take a timeout. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always take time to choose authorized ticket and merchandise retailers; check with the official Seahawks site for more information.
FREE WI-FI CONNECTIONS LEAD TO SIDEJACKING
BBB Warns of Growing Online Attacks Targeting Wi-Fi Users
Sidejacking is a common term for man-in-the-middle “eavesdropping” attacks that occur through unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Coffee shops, college campuses, airports and hotels are breeding grounds for hackers who try to compromise personal information and place computers at risk for viruses.
Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns users to be cautious when connecting to public hotspots and surfing on a non-secure internet connection.
Using public Wi-Fi is inherently risky; laptops, smartphones and tablets are all susceptible to security breaches. Exercising best practices takes only a few extra seconds and can eliminate many dangers.
BBB recommends the following steps to protect from hackers:
· Update protection. Make sure virus protection and anti-malware programs are up-to-date and active.
· Never assume connections are legitimate. Many fake networks deliberately utilize similar names, such as “coffee_shop1” or “official airport wifi.”
· Look for connection authenticity. Look for signs posted at the location providing the connection, or ask an employee for information about the legitimate Wi-Fi access point.
· Use a Virtual Private Network. VPNs encrypt data that passes through the connection and prevent interception.
· Avoid specific websites. Social networking channels, online banking services and certain shopping sites contain significant amounts of personal/financial data that, if hijacked, could seriously compromise identities.
BBB reminds online users to frequently change passwords and to not stay permanently logged in to wireless networks. For more information about online safety, check out OnGuardOnline.gov; visit the BBB News & Events page for the latest scam alerts and marketplace updates.
Photo by Jon Sullivan [Public domain]Everyone knows that it’s easy to get caught up in the sheer volume of information on the Internet; just about anything you want to research is online somewhere. Just the other day, out of curiosity, I went on Googleto see how many noses a snail has. Will I ever need this information? No, probably not. But the answer is out there so I just had to find it. Fun…
World Cup Scams Get A Red Card
June 5, 2014 – On June 12, 2014, the FIFA World Cup tournament begins in Brazil, pitting 32 of the best football—or “soccer” in the United States—teams against each other in one of the world’s most widely viewed sporting events. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is kicking off the occasion with some tips on safely following the action.
Fans who are considering attending matches in person should read BBB’s article about getting “tripped up” during travel season and the Federal Trade Commission’s article on avoiding fake tickets; fans who are attending matches from home should score a GOAL:
Go with official event broadcasts and avoid potentially malicious online streaming sites.
Obtain authentic mobile apps from legitimate sources to keep devices secure.
Access secure wireless networks when surfing to avoid hackers.
Link with caution and avoid shady email offers.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on a large cyber-attack against one of the main World Cup ticketing services, and it is likely that attempts to scam fans will increase in the final weeks before kickoff.
Don’t get stuck on the sidelines and miss all the action, visit the BBB News & Events page for the latest scam alerts and marketplace updates.
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 Bureaudata, 75.6 percent of Americans had household computers in 2011. With the population of the U.S. approaching 319 million, there are approximately…