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If It’s Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

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We hear about them on the TV and read about them in newspapers. Yet even a savvy consumer can fall victim to the latest scam.

“Too often, people just want to believe it’s true,” says Christine Sauers, president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Delaware. But as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

Since the national BBB was founded in 1912, the organization has sought to protect consumers from deceptive advertising and false claims. Thanks to technology, thieves have become more sophisticated and therefore more treacherous. Take steps to avoid these latest scams.

High-Tech Deception

You’re surfing the Web when suddenly a message appears that informs you that your computer is infected. You need software to fix it. There’s even a link to a site that sells the product. Yet if you download the product, you could introduce malware into your system that accesses personal information on your computer, warns the Federal Trade Commission. 

In the latest incarnation, scammers use public directories to get basic information on their victim. When they call, they pretend to be affiliated with a well-known company and ask consumers to perform tasks on the computer. They may even request remote access to your computer or direct you to phony websites. 

The takeaway:

  • Beware of giving control of your computer to a third party, particularly if the individual initiated the contact.
  • Avoid looking for IT support online. Ads might be false.
  • Don’t rely on caller ID; thieves can appear to call from a known company.
  • Keep your passwords private.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure.
  • Never provide your credit card information to someone over the phone without vetting the caller first.
  • Use the do-not-call registry.

Work-from-home Scams

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, individuals continue to fall victim to work-at-home scams. They take a job to “process payments,” “transfer funds” or “re-ship products.” But they’re really transferring illegally obtained funds or goods that have been purchased with stolen credit cards.

What’s more, the victims may give personal information to their so-called employer that can lead to identity theft. And to make matters worse, the victims become an accessory to the crime. 

The takeaway:

  • Be wary if you’re asked to ship packages to an overseas home office or if an individual maintains that his country won’t allow direct business shipments from the United States.
  • Never provide personal information to strangers online.
  • Use caution when dealing with people outside the United States.
  • Don’t accept packages that you didn’t order. Refuse delivery or contact the sender.

Romance and Heartbreak

Western Union and the BBB warn consumers against transferring money to someone you’ve met on a dating site. These thieves, who often profess an instant attraction, ask to talk to you via personal email or on an outside messaging service so there’s no record of the encounter on the dating site. To avoid meeting you in person, the individual might claim to be a U.S. citizen traveling or living abroad.

The takeaway:

  • Be wary of anyone who wants to move contact off the dating site or who gives a suspicious reason for not meeting in person.
  • Don’t send money or provide credit card information to someone you’ve communicated with only on the dating site.
  • Avoid clicking on third-party websites that the individual sends you.

For more information on the latest scams, visit bbb.org/council/bbb-scam-stopper.

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