New Twist on Scam Tech Support Calls Installs Viruses on Victims’ Computers - BBB Tips
It’s classic scam: a fake tech support caller claims he needs access to your computer to fix a non-existent bug. But a new twist involves the caller actually installing a virus on victims’ computers.
How the Scam Works:
You get a telephone call from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Microsoft is a popular choice. The callers often have strong accents but use common names such as “Adam” or “Bill.” The scammers may know your name and other personal information, which they get from publicly available phone directories. They might even guess what computer operating system you’re using.
The caller tells you that your computer is sending error messages, and they’ve detected a virus on it. He says only a tech support employee can remove the virus, but first you need to grant him access to your machine. If you give the OK, the caller will run a scan of your files and actually point out how the virus has infected the computer. The scammers then offer to remove the virus…. for a fee. Of course, they need your credit card details first.
Here’s the twist. Those who allowed the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, reported difficulties with their computer afterwards, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Some said their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible. Some victims even reported taking their computers for repair, and the technicians confirmed software had been installed.
What to do if “Tech Support” Calls?
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
- Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from tech support.
- Take the caller’s information down and report it to your local authorities or the FTC.
- If you did allow a caller to access your computer:
- Change the passwords for your computer, email and online banking/credit card accounts.
- Be sure to run a virus scan
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report if you shared personal and banking information with the scammer.
For More Information
See Microsoft’s advice on avoiding tech support call scams.
To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.
Is There Really a Such Thing as a “Cooling Off Period” for Signing Contract?
There is a misconception in the market that once you sign a contract, you have a three day “cooling off” period in which you can cancel the contract with no questions asked. Not so fast says Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette.
There are some specific instances where the cooling off period applies, but according to the AG’s website the general principle is:
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO CANCEL MOST CONTRACTS
This is news to many consumers - many most likely think that because so many stores allow customers to return merchandise without cause, that they can also cancel a contract or to demand a refund of any retailer.
The AG’s site indicates however that “as a general matter of contract law, consumers do not have a right to cancel a sale of goods or services.”
When there are damaged or undelivered products, consumers have more recourse to demand their money back. In addition, if a retailer offers a “money-back guarantee” they must live up to this. “But where the merchant has provided the goods or services that the consumer agreed to buy, the consumer generally may not insist on canceling a transaction after the fact.”
The “cooling-off period” does apply in some cases however, even though the contract may be cancelled the consumer must carefully follow written instructions that sellers are required to provide at the time the contract is signed.
In general, you have THREE business days to cancel a contract if:
- The sale was solicited in the consumer’s home; or
- A gift was offered for attending a sales presentation that led to the contract; or
- A consumer’s primary home is used as security and the loan is not used to purchase or construct the home.
You have ONE business day to cancel a contract if:
- The contract is for home improvement and the consumer agrees to make payments over time to the contractor.
These laws can be tricky, therefore the Attorney General advises consumers who think their situation may be covered to read their contracts thoroughly and, if you have questions whether the law applies, promptly seek legal advice - BEFORE YOUR CANCELLATION PERIOD EXPIRES.
To read the entire warning from the Michigan Attorney General, click here: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337-44718—,00.html
Better Business Bureau Names “Top Ten Scams” of 2012
The Better Business Bureau investigates thousands of scams every year, and this past year launched two websites to help consumers figure out which offers are real and which ones are possibly frauds:
- BBB Smart Investing (www.bbb.org/smartinvesting), developed in partnership with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, informs consumers about investment fraud, Ponzi schemes and risky investments, and helps them assess their risk, check out brokers, and avoid getting taken.
- BBB Scam Stopper (www.bbb.org/scamstopper), developed in partnership with Western Union, educates consumers about the major types of scams and provides information on how to avoid them and how to report them.
The annual “Top Ten Scams” list is culled from a variety of sources. BBB gathers information on scams from consumers, some of whom have been victims of scams; from federal agencies; and from other reliable information sources.
Here are BBB’s Top Ten Scams of 2012:
Top Overpayment/Fake Check Scam: Car Ads
The online ad says something like “Get Paid Just for Driving Around” – a prominent company is offering $400+ per week if you’ll drive around with their logo all over your car. They send a check to you, which you are supposed to deposit in your account and then wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. Whoops! A week later, the check bounces, the graphic designer is nowhere to be found, and you are out the money you wired. The Internet Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) says they saw this one a lot in 2012.
Top Emergency Scam: Grandparents Scam
The “Grandparents Scam” has been around a while, but it’s still so prevalent we need to mention it again: grandchild/niece/nephew/friend is traveling abroad and calls/texts/emails to say he or she has been mugged/arrested/hurt and needs money right away (“…and please don’t tell mom and dad!”). Plus the FBI says that, thanks to social media, it’s getting easier and easier for scammers to tell a more plausible story because they can use real facts from the supposed victim’s life (“Remember that great camera I got for Christmas?” “I’m in France to visit my old college roommate.”). Easy rule of thumb – before you wire money in an emergency, check with the supposed victim or their family members to make sure they really are traveling. Odds are they are safe at home.
Top Employment Scam: Mystery Shopping
If you love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But scammers have figured that out, too, and many job offers are nothing more than a variation on the Overpayment/Fake Check Scam (above). Sometimes they even tell you that evaluating the wire service company is part of the job, which is why you need to send back part of the money. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association says it’s not the practice of their members to pre-pay shoppers, but if you have your heart set on this type of job, you can find a legitimate gig through their website at www.mysteryshop.org.
Top Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam: Nonexistent Loans
Loan scams continued to fester in 2012. It seems for every legitimate lender out there, there is a scammer waiting to prey on people in desperate situations. Most of the scams advertise online and promise things like no credit check or easy repayment terms. Then the hook: you have to make the first payment upfront, you have to buy an “insurance policy,” or there is some other kind of fee that you have to pay first to “secure” the loan. This year, we heard a new, aggressive twist on loan scams: consumers who were threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn’t “pay back” loans they said they had never even taken out in the first place. Some got calls at their workplace, even to relatives. The embarrassment of being thought of as a delinquent caused some victims to pay even when they knew they didn’t owe the money.
Top Phishing Scam: President Obama Will Pay Your Utility Bills
Of all the politically-related scams, this one seemed to be the most prevalent. At the peak of summer with utility costs soaring, consumers got emails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a “new government program” to pay your utility bills. Hey, the president wants to get re-elected, right? Maybe he’s just trying to win votes. Victims “registered” with an official-looking website and provided everything scammers needed for identity theft purposes, including bank account information.
Top Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican Phone Lottery
This is an old one that flared up again this year. We consider it flattering (in a weird way) that BBB is such a trusted brand that we “star” in so many scams! In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876) but the person claims to represent BBB (or FBI, or other trusted group). Great news: you’ve won a terrific prize (typical haul: $2 million and Mercedes Benz) but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. There are lots of variations on this; sometimes it’s a government grant. Best just to hang up and then file a phone fraud report with the appropriate government agency (see below).
Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets
Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year’s top scams. You get a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook (“ROFL they was taping you” or “What RU doing in this FB vid?” are typical tweets). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn’t a new version of Flash; it’s a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.
Top Home Improvement Scam: Sandy “Storm Chasers”
BBB spends a lot of time investigating and reporting on home improvement scams, but this year we saw an unusual amount of “storm chaser” activity following Super Storm Sandy. Tree removal, roofing, general home repairs – some were legitimate contractors who came from other areas for the volume of work available; others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work; while some were even out-and-out scam artists who took the money and never did the work. In an emergency, it’s tempting to skip reference checking, but that’s never a good idea. BBB has tens of thousands of Accredited Businesses in the home contracting field who are committed to upholding our mission of trust. Next time you need home repairs, find a contractor at www.bbb.org/search.
Top Sales/Rental Scam: Real Stars, Fake Goods
Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to have their hands in your pocket all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears that 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers were selling cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums. Others set up websites that just stole your money and never had any goods to begin with. Counterfeit goods are not only a rip-off for you because the merchandise is usually shoddy, but they are also a rip-off for the teams, athletes, designers and artists who create, license and sell the real thing. Buy directly from team stores and websites, or from legitimate retailers. You’ll pay a little more, but it will be the real deal. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scam of the Year: Newtown Charity Scams
Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, social media pages dedicated to the child victims began cropping up…and some of them were scams asking for money. The FBI has already arrested one woman for posing as the aunt of one of the children killed, and state and federal agencies are investigating other possible fraudulent and misleading solicitations. In response to these reports, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offered tips for donors to understand how and when to best support those dealing with such a tragic crisis. Although the number of people defrauded and the total dollars stolen is most likely low, the cynicism and sheer audacity of these scams merits our selecting it as the “Top Scam of 2012.”
More information for consumers:
· For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scamstopper. Sign up for our Scam Alerts and learn about new scams as soon as we do.
· To search for a business in the U.S. or Canada, or to find your local BBB, go to BBB.org.
· For information on charities, go to Give.org.
· For information on U.S. government services, go to: USA.gov.
· For information on Canadian government services, go to Service Canada.
Don’t Fall for Medicare Card Phone Scam - BBB tips
Scammers are tricking seniors nationwide into sharing personal information by claiming to be Medicare representatives mailing out new ID cards. Don’t fall for this attempt; just hang up on suspicious callers.
You answer the phone, and the unknown caller claims to be with Medicare or another government office. He informs you that your new Medicare card is in the mail, and you will receive it in a few days. In the meantime, you need to set up your direct deposit so your Medicare funds can be deposited into your bank account. To do this, you just need to tell the caller your banking information. He will take care of the rest.
Of course, there is no new card and no direct deposit. The caller just wants you to share your banking information, so he can drain your account.
A Twist on This Scam:
The above is just the latest variation of the Medicare card phone scam. Other callers may ask you to verify your identity in order to receive the new card. They will ask for your Medicare card number, which is the same as your Social Security number, as well as other personal information. With that knowledge, a scammer can easily steal your identity.
How Can I Avoid Medicare Card Identity Theft?
Protect yourself from scammers by following these tips:
- Don’t carry your Medicare card around in your wallet. If the card is lost or stolen, a scammer can use the information to commit identity theft.
- Don’t give your personal information out over the Internet, phone, or to anyone who comes to your home uninvited. Only give information to doctors or other providers approved by Medicare
- If you suspect identity theft, or believe you gave your personal information to a scammer, call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
For More Information
To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.
Ford Motor Company Celebrates 100 Years of Trust with Better Business Bureau
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., has recently celebrated its 100th year of national association with the Better Business Bureau and its 85th year of local accreditation with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Detroit & Eastern Michigan. In addition, recently at the BBB National Assembly, the Council of Better Business Bureaus presented Ford with a 2012 BBB International Torch Award.
Ford was given the BBB President’s Award, for “sustained superior performance that fundamentally changed the marketplace, and shaped the definition and expectation of trust for all marketplace participants.” Ford consistently develops and produces some of the industry’s most innovative and fuel-efficient vehicles, while at the same time balancing production with environmental, safety and social responsibility concerns. Ford’s dedication to trust, innovation and technology has given consumers more choices for high-quality vehicles with leading fuel economy – including eight vehicles with 40 mpg or more by the end of this year.
“As the Better Business Bureau representing the Motor City, it is important that we have the backing of an outstanding, community minded automotive company like Ford,” said Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. “Their 100 years of unwavering support of the BBB not only lets customers know of their commitment to trust, but also allows our organization to offer critical community programs such as the BBB Military Line® and the LifeSmarts Teen Educational Challenge.”
“Ford Motor Company has been committed to operating our business in a way that positively impacts the world around us for more than a century. When Henry Ford founded our company, he wasn’t just pursuing profits, he was pursuing a greater purpose,” said Mary Culler, director of Government Affairs for Ford Motor Company. “Because of our strong commitment to doing what is right for customers and communities, we have a proud history of supporting the Better Business Bureau which elevates high standards for trust, integrity and ethical business practices.”
Companies interested in accreditation or sponsorship with the Better Business Bureau, can contact Lisa Dilg, Director of Community Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248.799.0326.
About the Better Business Bureau Serving Detroit & Eastern Michigan
The Better Business Bureau Serving Detroit & Eastern Michigan is a non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting trust in the marketplace by assisting in the protection of consumers and businesses from fraud and unethical business practices. In addition to its recognized dispute resolution services, the BBB maintains business reviews on the customer service history of more than 90,000 local businesses and provides consumer education materials on numerous topics. The BBB provides its services free to the public and its service territory stretches across Eastern Michigan from Ann Arbor through Metropolitan Detroit, Lansing, Flint, upward to Alpena, and covers the entire Upper Peninsula of the state.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 172,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com.
BBB Scam Alert: Watch Out for Malware Disguised as Sudoku Generator
A scam that promises unlimited Sudoku puzzles is extra tempting this time of year as you slowly start to get back into your work groove.
How the Scam Works:
You receive a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that promises to automatically generate Sudoku puzzles. However, when you open the file and try to create a new puzzle, you get a message that you need to “enable macros” by disabling the software’s security setting.
If you do so, you will allow the malware to run on your computer. It will scan your system and send an email with details about your machine, according to computer security blog Naked Security.
What are Macros?
If you perform a task repeatedly in Microsoft Excel (or another Microsoft Office program), you can speed up your work by automating the task with a macro, a series of commands. However, macros are also a common way for scammers to sneak malware onto your computer.
Back in the 1990s, scammers frequently used this trick until Microsoft set all its software to automatically block macros. This adjustment forced scammers to abandon this technique and find new ways of fooling users. With this new malware, scammers hope that today’s Excel users have forgotten all about macros.
My File is Asking me to Enable Macros. Is This a Scam?
It can be hard to know when to allow macros in your Microsoft files. Follow these tips to ensure you don’t accidentally allow a virus to run on your computer.
- Whenever you open an Excel workbook that contains macros, you can verify their source before you enable them. Just look for the digital signature, an electronic stamp of authenticity.See Microsoft’s page on macro security for more information.
- Set your macro security level to control what happens when you open a workbook that contains a macro. You can choose to run macros based on whether they are digitally signed by a developer on your list of trusted sources. (To find this setting, go to the Tools menu, Macrosubmenu. Then, click the “Security Level” tab in the “Security” dialog box).
- Watch out for macros in other Microsoft software. This scam involves Excel, but if this technique works, scammers will produce similar tricks using Power Point and Word Documents.
For More Information
Learn more about macros on Microsoft’s support website.
Hiring a Snow Removal Contractor - BBB Industry Tips
The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan receives hundreds of complaints every year about snow removal contractors not complying with their agreements. If you plan on hiring a snow removal contractor instead of shoveling yourself, the Better Business Bureau recommends the following:
- Get several estimates. Prices can vary widely and are usually based on the amount of work involved in clearing your property. Remember that the least expensive estimate is not always the best choice.
- Ask the contractor about additional charges and price options. Beside the quoted price, there may be some additional charges during large storms.
- After the snow reaches a certain depth, some snow removal contractors charge by the inch, so you’ll want to find out how the company calculates these charges. Other contractors may offer a fixed price for an entire season, regardless of the amount of snow (or lack of snow).
- Make sure that you are aware of which services you are getting.
- Find out exactly what is included in the estimate.
- Are the walks and steps included?
- What about the cost of sand and/or salt?
- Will the company clear only after the storm, or during the snowfall as well?
- If the contractor has to come back more than once during the same storm, is there an additional charge?
- Ask for references, and check them out.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for a Business Review on a contractor you are planning on hiring.
- Do not agree to the terms of the contract over the telephone. The contractor should provide you with a written agreement.
- Before signing the agreement, find out who is responsible for damages such as cracked driveways or broken gates.
Your expectations of your snow removal contractor should be realistic. Keep in mind that a snowstorm makes traveling difficult for you and the contractor and that during major snowstorms, it may take longer for the contractor to reach you and perform the contracted work.
BBB and FINRA Foundation Launch Smart Investing Website to Help Stop Investment Scams
Consumers lose millions to scammers and Ponzi schemes; new effort combines education, local outreach
The Better Business Bureau and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation launched a new consumer website, BBB Smart Investing, which is designed to help investors make smarter investing decisions while avoiding fraud, risky investments and unlicensed brokers. The campaign combines the research and expansive knowledge base of the FINRA Foundation with the extensive consumer outreach of BBB’s trusted 100-year-old name and its 104 local operations across the United States.
Nearly half of the BBBs based in the United States have begun rolling out programs and hosting events in their local areas. A wide variety of tools from the FINRA Foundation are being used by trained BBB presenters across the country to introduce smart investing skills and to teach consumers how to detect investment schemes, scams and frauds.
The BBB Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula is also offering free FINRA educational events, provided by BBB trainers, Danae Hanes, trade practices consultant and Melanie Duquesnel, CEO. The seminars can be delivered to virtually any group interested in learning how to protect their assets, including businesses, chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations, schools, senior centers and more.
Consumer financial fraud is a serious problem in North America. According to the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, consumers reported losing more than $1.5 billion to all types of scams in 2011. FINRA Foundation research has found that investors are overconfident in their knowledge of financial management, particularly Baby Boomers who are most often the target of investment scams. A telephone survey found that 92% felt “somewhat” or “very confident” about managing their finances, with almost 80% describing themselves as “somewhat” or “very” knowledgeable about investing. But only 44% got a passing grade on a basic financial literacy knowledge test. BBB Smart Investing hopes to help change that.
If you are interested in receiving Investment Scam Prevention Training with the Better Business Bureau or have any questions, please contact Lisa Dilg, Director of Community Relations, at email@example.com or (248) 799-0326.
BBB Accreditation - What’s in it for YOU?
When consumers see the VeriSign Secured Seal on a website, they know their information is safe on that site. Similarly, when they see the TRUSTe’s Privacy Seal Program they know that a website owner has agreed to abide by a set of fair information privacy practices.
So what does it mean when they see the Better Business Bureau Seal?
It means the Better Business Bureau has determined that the company meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. In short, it’s a symbol that the business has committed to conducting itself in an ethical and trustworthy manner.
And just like in the process of being vetted by VeriSign and TRUSTe, there is a fee involved in the BBB accreditation process, but besides just being able to use the seal to show your customers and prospects that you can be trusted, you may wonder what else you receive for that fee.
Below are a few of the many benefits your accreditation offers you!
- BBB ‘Request a Quote’ Program: Allows prospective customers to request bids from BBB Accredited Businesses directly from our site – sending hot leads directly to you via email or text. When companies receive and respond to a quote request in 24 - 48 hours it results in a 90% close rate.
- Free Dispute Resolution: BBB staff will work with your business to resolve consumer complaints and offers free arbitration and mediation services.
- Cost Savings through Affinity Partnerships: Affinity programs offer discounts to BBB accredited businesses. For example, the Office Depot program offers discounts from 5 - 30% off of hundreds of office and janitorial supplies. In fact, since on average, one employee uses $300 worth of office/janitorial supplies annually, by participating in the Office Depot program, our accredited businesses can save, on average, $54 per employee. That means an office of 15 employees will save more than $800 a year!
- Business Card Exchanges: The BBB hosts monthly Business Card Exchanges, which offer a wide variety of speakers with business “best practice” topics as well as a great opportunity for networking. These trainings are available to all employees of our accredited businesses and can be used to further train employees company wide.
- BBB Online Business Directory: Thousands of consumers every month use our online directory to find trusted businesses and ONLY BBB Accredited Businesses are included which increases your market reach and leads customers to your business.
If you are an accredited business and you want more information on your benefits, or if you are considering accreditation, please contact Doris Hendricks at 248.799.0305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clicking ‘Like’? You are Helping Spam Go Viral
The newest Facebook spam is probably clogging up your newsfeed right now. You’ve seen them: photos that have ten of thousands of “likes” and a caption that promises something amazing. Despite what these pics claim to be, they are just a way for shady businesses to make money off Facebook.
How the Scam Works:
An attention-grabbing photo appears in your Facebook newsfeed. The striking image has a caption (such as the one below) that promises something will happen in the photo if you “like” it or leave a particular comment.
But when you comment on the photo, nothing happens. The photo is just spam gone viral.
What’s the point of these photos? Savvy spammers set up Facebook pages and populate them with funny and/or moving images. Each picture has a message that urges users to “like,” share or comment on the posts. The images run the gamut from amusing teasers, such as the one above, to heart tugging images of sick children with captions that falsely promise “a dollar donated for each ‘like.’”
The more times the images are shared or “liked,” the more it boosts the spam page’s “edge rank,” the score a Facebook page is given to dictate how it interacts with other Facebook profiles. The higher your “edge rank,” the more often the page appears in other users’ newsfeeds. After the page accumulates enough fans and a high enough “edge rank,” the spammers sell it.
I Spotted Facebook Spam. What Should I Do?
- Don’t share, like or comment on the images. That just perpetuates Facebook spam.
- Report spam to Facebook by following these instructions.
For More Information
For tips on identifying Facebook scams and ensuring your account is secure, please see Facebook’s Help Center.
To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.