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.
FINRA Awards Grant to the Better Business Bureau
BBB of Eastern Michigan Receives Funding to Teach Financial Literacy and Investment Scam Prevention
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Eastern Michigan & the Upper Peninsula announced today that it has been awarded a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation to deliver educational training programs on investment fraud prevention for the communities in Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Their mission is to protect America’s investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. FINRA is now collaborating with the Better Business Bureau to deliver educational training programs on fraud prevention in local markets throughout the United States.
“The missions of the BBB and FINRA are very similar in that we both focus on informing and protecting our communities,” said Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. “We are grateful to FINRA for making this grant available to us so that we can bolster our existing speaking roster with information that can save our residents from potentially devastating financial trouble.”
Through its long-standing business and community ties, the BBB plans to build a solid repertoire of 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.
Events will be tailored to the each audience however, in general, the objectives include teaching attendees:
• The ‘Psychology’ of Scams
• Common Tactics used by Scammers
• Victim Demographic Trends and Key Risk Factors
• Persuasion Tactics of Scammers
• Assessment of Participants’ Personal Risk Level
• How to Prevent Fraud and Protect Yourself and Your Family
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 799-0326.
About The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan & the Upper Peninsula
The BBB Serving Eastern Michigan & the Upper Peninsula 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. Visit the BBB online at www.easternmichiganbbb.org.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation. FINRA registers and educates industry participants, examines securities firms; writes and enforces rules and federal securities laws, educates the investing public and provides trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.finra.org.
Criminals Are Hijacking Online Vehicle Ads To Trick Consumers
If you are cruising the online vehicle ads for a new ride, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers to be alert to criminals that hijack online ads to “sell” vehicles they do not own and have no intention of delivering.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received nearly 14,000 complaints from consumers who had been victimized or targeted by these scams from 2008 through last year. Victims lost nearly $44.5 million.
The scam varies, but what often happens is that consumers find vehicles they like advertised on a legitimate website, often at a below-market price. When the buyer contacts the seller, usually from an email address in the ad, the seller responds with a hard-luck story about why they’re selling the vehicle at such a low price.
The seller then asks the buyer to move the transaction to another website, often citing security reasons, and offers a buyer protection plan in the name of a well-known entity, usually a large online company. The buyer receives an invoice and is instructed to wire the funds to an account. In some cases, sellers have posed as company representatives in a live chat, offering to answer questions from buyers.
Buyers are asked to fax a receipt to show that the funds have been wired, and the seller and buyer agree on where and when the vehicle will be delivered. Of course, once the money is wired, there is no vehicle and the buyer’s money is gone.
In most cases, according to the FBI, the ad that a consumer sees online is either phony or was hijacked from another website. When the seller asks buyers to switch to a second site, it is usually a spoof of a legitimate site where the scammer can conduct a criminal business. Any “buyer protection plan” is bogus.
The scam has a number of red flags that should alert consumers:
- The price is too good to be true.
- The transaction is moved to another website.
- The seller says the “buyer protection plan” will cover the transaction even though the sale has been moved to another site.
- The seller won’t let the buyer inspect the car before purchase.
- The seller claims to be unable to show the car because they’re in the military and are about to be deployed, because they’re moving, because the owner died or because of some other reason.
- The money has to be wired to the seller.
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers interested in buying vehicles online:
- Buy from an established business with a good reputation. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org .
- If you are unfamiliar with the business, find out if it has offices at the advertised address. If you are unable to contact the company, contact the building manager or other tenants to confirm the business address.
- If possible, pay by credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase.
- Be wary of prices that seem unusually low. Low prices are the best way for a fraudulent business to attract victim. For more advice on fighting fraud and managing personal finances, visit www.bbb.org.
Better Business Bureau Issues Warning About Local Playground Equipment Company; Outdoor Fun Store Co. Receives an “F” Rating for Failing to Respond to Consumer Complaints
Southfield, MI – June 7, 2012– Consumers from across the country have contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Detroit & Eastern Michigan alleging poor business practices against the Outdoor Fun Store, including failure to ship products, shipping incorrect items, and failure to refund money for items not received. All complainants have indicated that they have made numerous attempts in writing and by phone to contact the company but have not been successful in reaching company representatives.
One complainant is The Osage Nation from Pawhuska, OK who ordered equipment from the Outdoor Fun Store to be used by a tribal family preservation unit that helps tribal families in crisis. The tribe contacted WDIV’s “Ruth to the Rescue” producers and the BBB for help.
“We made two payments totaling $6,578.44, but have not received any of the playground equipment. We have made numerous calls and sent a demand letter which have all have gone unanswered. The money for the equipment was originally federal grant funds; therefore, the Osage Nation had to reimburse the grant with its own funds. We are hoping that WDIV and the Better Business Bureau can help us recoup our money,” Clint Patterson, Assistant Attorney General, Osage Nation.
Another complainant also contacted WDIV’s “Ruth to the Rescue” producers about her purchase of playscape accessories that she never received despite phone calls, emails and an in-person visit to the store. However, after this WDIV report, she was refunded her money, while all other complaints have yet to be resolved.
Following the WDIV report, the Better Business Bureau reopened all complaints and contacted the owner via certified mail. To date the company has failed to respond to any complaints and currently has an “F” rating on their BBB Business Review.
The Better Business Bureau warns buyers to be wary of doing business with the Outdoor Fun Store until they have shown good faith in responding to and resolving all customer complaints. The business in question is based in Canton and operates at the following address:
Outdoor Fun Store
8551 Ronda Drive
Canton, MI. 48187
Consumers are also encouraged to start their search for trusted vendors and other businesses at the Better Business Bureau website where they can research any business prior to purchasing or entering into a contract.
Top 10 Summer job scam tip-offs
Better Business Bureau is warning university and high school students looking for work this summer to be careful to avoid job scams.
Students are in a unique position where they may not have a lot of work experience, and applying for a job which requires no work experience and a high salary often sounds very enticing. The reality is these are closer to pyramid schemes rather than legitimate work opportunities.
Many Internet and newspaper ads have posting that claim: “summer job, make $300 a day!”; “last year our employees made $10,000 over the summer.”
Here are 10 tip-offs that the “employment opportunity” could be a scam:
1. Big bucks for simple tasks. Watch out if they promise to pay you a lot of money for jobs that don’t seem to require much effort or skill. If it sounds too good to be true; it might be a scam.
2. Job offers out of nowhere from strangers. If they offer you a job without getting an application from you first, meeting you, or doing an interview, it’s probably a scam. Don’t hand your personal employment information to such folk (especially your Social Insurance Number!). That could lead to identity theft.
3. Requests for up-front payments. If someone wants you to make an advance payment to “get in” on the ground floor of a new business opportunity - especially if it’s a big investment, or you don’t have much information about the deal - this is a big red flag. Don’t do it. “Advance fee scams” are very common and they come in many varieties.
4. They ask you to wire the money. If you wire a payment to somebody, it’s gone forever. Wire transfers of money are a convenient and perfectly legitimate service. But scam artists often ask you to wire payments that they are requesting (especially to destinations in other countries!) because they know you won’t be able to get your money back.
5. High pressure to do it now. Don’t be in a hurry to accept an unsolicited offer of work, or to make a business investment, particularly if the other party is asking you to spend your money on the deal. Take your time. If somebody tries to convince you that this is a “limited time” offer and you have to act now, just tell them to forget it. Ignore anybody who pushes you to agree. High pressure is a big sign that something’s wrong.
6. Refusal to give you full details in writing. Ask for complete information in writing. Request proof of any claims. Look carefully at any documentation they might provide to make sure it answers allyour questions. If they won’t give details, or don’t respond to questions, don’t do business with them.
7. References are missing or a bit suspicious. A real business should be able to give you many professional references – not just a few. Be sure to ask for references and check them yourself. Don’t be swayed by a few written testimonials that sound fabulous. Even if the references seem good, don’t make your decision based on references alone. Do a careful background check. For starters: try a web search on the company name and see what comes up.
8. Contact information is missing or doesn’t make sense. Be very cautious if a company is trying to get you to accept a job or do business, but seems to lack any established physical location with a real street address. A cell phone number and website address are not enough contact information. If there’s no street address, look out! (P.O. boxes are not comforting – scammers often rent them, and move on quickly.) If there is an address, it’s worth taking a moment to check it on the Internet. It’s common for phony operations to claim they are at an address that is not their true location. Use an online tools like Google Street View which shows photos of address locations.
9. They want you to buy a bunch of expensive stuff. If they expect you to make a major purchase of equipment, software, inventory, or information in order to get started in business, be very careful. Often these are the most persuasive kinds of scams. It seems like it might be a real business opportunity – but it’s not. Here’s what happens: the buyer makes the purchase and never receives the things needed to set up the business. You can avoid this situation! Check the business out completely before you send a dime.
10. It’s got a bad rating with the BBB! Victims do complain to the BBB about work at home scams. It only takes minutes to check a company’s record with us at bbb.org. Do the search. Or call the BBB if you want help figuring out whether you are looking at a scam. It could save you a fortune. If you’ve been victimized, file a complaint with the BBB!
BBB Warns Students To Steer Clear Of Sites, Sales Pitches That Promise To Find Financial Aid
With the cost of college outpacing inflation and crimping family budgets, students and their families are anxious to find scholarships and other awards that can help them pay for higher education.
The Better Business Bureau advises students and their parents to be wary of websites, seminars or other schemes that promise to find scholarships, grants or financial aid packages for a fee. The companies may promise a money-back guarantee, but they set so many conditions that it’s almost impossible to get a refund. Others tell students they’ve been selected as finalists but that they have to pay a fee to be eligible for the award.
In some cases, companies promise to handle paperwork that can make you eligible for the aid – for a fee. However, the standard application for financial aid is most often the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which students and their parents can complete themselves. More information is available online or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID.
College financial aid offices require the FAFSA to assess a student’s eligibility for need-based aid, and they may require additional information. Most are willing to advise prospective students on how to apply for aid and answer questions about financial aid packages they offer when a student is accepted for admission.
High school guidance counselors often can help students search for information on scholarships based on their talents, academic achievements, essay contests or other merit-based aid. Information on many awards is available free online or at public or school libraries.
Legitimate companies can help students find aid, but they will never promise results. However, parents and students usually can find the same awards on their own by searching online or going to the library.
The BBB advises students to:
- Take your time. Don’t be rushed into paying for help at a seminar. Be cautious if a representative urges you to buy now to avoid losing an opportunity.
- Be cautious if a company is reluctant to answer any questions you have about the service or the process. If the company or seminar representative is evasive, walk away.
- Ask your guidance counselor or a college financial aid office whether they have experience with the company.
- Be skeptical of glowing success stories touted on websites or at seminars. Ask instead for the names of families in your community who have used the service in the last year. Talk to them and find out about their experience with the firm.
- Ask about fees associated with a professional financial aid search and find out if the company provides refunds. Get the information in writing, but realize the dishonest companies may refuse to provide refunds despite stated policies.
- Beware of letters or emails saying you’ve been selected to receive a scholarship for a contest you never entered.
- Investigate any company that you consider using to help find aid. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
Memorial Day Scams Target Military, Families, Supporters
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who serve and remember those who have died in war. But sadly, it has also become a key opportunity for scammers to target those who are serving or have served their nation, especially elderly veterans. BBB is urging consumers and donors to be on the lookout for deals that seem too good to be true, and for disreputable charities.
“The unique lifestyle of our service members makes them prime targets for scammers,” notes Brenda Linnington, Director of BBB Military Line. “It’s imperative that we educate our service members and ensure that the support we give to them equals the effort they make every day on behalf of us.” Linnington said scams can include those that target service personnel and their families directly, but also those that appear to be helping military members via charities.
“Donors need to watch out for questionable charities that raise funds on behalf of military organizations,” adds Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “When you make a donation, always check www.give.org to see that the group meets BBB charity standards, especially around Memorial Day. Too many solicitors that fail to meet BBB standards call and say they help veterans, service members or their families, and little of the money donated will serve that purpose.”
Among the scams to watch out for:
- Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting veterans to say they need to update their credit card, bank or other financial records with the VA
- Charging service members for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records;
- Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
- Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;
- Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit;
- Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
- Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
- Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains a lot of personal information);
- Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.
BBB advises service members, veterans and all consumers never to give personal identification information (Social Security, bank account, military identification or credit card numbers, etc.) to anyone who contacts you by phone or e-mail, and to be wary of any solicitations that involve purchasing something or transferring money. Consumers can check out businesses and charities for free at www.bbb.org.