Advice From the Better Business Bureau to Help Protect Yourself from Scams
I remember not too long ago reading an article in Family Circle Magazine, title “The Nightmare of Identity Theft Could, it Happen to You.” That article left me with chills up my spine. As I read on how this couple where victims of identity theft twice, I couldn’t help but wonder, how safe are we? We live in a society where there are those that use our personal information to rob us blind. How do we protect ourselves in a world that is becoming everyday more complex and dangerous?
The other day I came across a video that is done by the Better Business Bureau titled “Scam Alert.” It is about scams and frauds to avoid. It is very well presented and gives both consumers and businesses some very vital information on how to protect ourselves against the unscrupulous. The Better Business Bureau is a non profit organization that is funded by its member.
The BBB is not a law enforcement agency, therefore they are not the ones in charge of making arrests, if you rights have been violated, and they are not legal advocates either. What the BBB does is provide consumers and business with information on the status of a business, it legitimacy and how to protect yourself from scams. If you are going through a business related difficulty, or you have a complaint, the BBB will help you work through the dispute by providing you with the information you need.
There are various types of scams that are examined in this eye opening video and information on how you can better protect yourself. The scams examined in this documentary are as follows:
- Identity theft through social utility networks
- Debit/Credit card skimming- Fake PIN Pads
- Unscrupulous Moving Practices
- False Health Claims/ Fake Products
- Green Washing
- Work at Home Schemes/ Fake Ads
- Small Business- Protecting Customer Information
- Condo Sales Scams
I will be covering most of these scams in my article. If you would like the full report on how to protect yourself from all these scams, you can obtain a copy of this documentary through the BBB.
Scams and How You Can Protect Yourself
Identity Theft through Utility Technologies: This type of scam is usually perpetuated against those who post too much personal information on social networking sites, such as Face Book and My Space. Sometimes some of the younger users of these social networking site post personal information, like their bank PIN number for their friends to use to get money for a movie. Unfortunately, that PIN number is being viewed by any of the other users on that network, including the unscrupulous and that young person ends up with a lot of unsolicited bank activity.
When posting online, one should never post the following:
- PIN numbers
- Account numbers
- Social Security Numbers or SIN numbers
I know that this is obvious to most of us, but there are those who do post this type of information on social networking sites; therefore it is important that parents monitor their children while on the internet to make sure they do give any information that could compromise them in anyway.
Debit Card Skimming – Fake Pin Pads: This crime is perpetrated against consumers and small businesses. The perpetrator is usually an employee working for the business and when customers are making a purchase they swipe the card twice, capture the information contained on the strip on the customers's credit card, then they create a fake credit card and have the charges sent to the customer.
This type of scam even takes the form of organized crime. This happens when a pin pad is stolen and replaced by a counterfeit pin pad. This is done by the criminal coming into the business venue and distracting the employees, while switching the business’s pin pad for a counterfeit pad. They often work in a group or pairs, having one member distract the employees, while the other does the switch.
In order to protect themselves business owners should have a copy of the pin pad’s serial number on file. They should always be on the look out for suspicious activity. Be suspicious if you see someone near the register with no purchase and they are very interested in your pin pad. Customers can protect themselves by making sure that the pin pad they are using is well secured to the counter. If it is not secured, check to make sure the pin pad has a serial number. Businesses should have identifying marks on their pin pads, such as sticker. Make sure you have something that will make your pin pad unique, to deter this type of criminal activity.
Customers can also protect themselves by auditing their bank and credit card statements. They should always check to make sure there are no unusual charges. If you find any unusual charges, then report it to the credit card company immediately and have them close your account and issue you a new account number. Also be careful not to allow restaurant or sales staff to process your card where you cannot see them. Shield your PIN when using an ATM with our hand or body. Keep your PIN confidential!!!
False Health Claims and Scams: This is perpetrator when a patient is given false hope by being offered a “miracle drug” that does nothing to help the patient. This is also the case with some weight loss products and services. One should always consult their physician before joining their weight loss program. It is wise to read the contract carefully and to carefully read what their cancellation policies are.
When ordering medicines online beware of bogus online pharmacies that sell fake versions of drugs that can kill you. Before ordering from an online pharmacy check to make sure that the pharmacy is legitimate, this could be a matter of life and death.
Work At Home Scams Fake Ads and Online Job Boards: As I have written in a previous hub title “New Ways of Doing Business? Are We Being Offered Solutions or Illusions?” You must be careful when you receive an offer either through the mail or you see one online that offers a work opportunity that is too good to be true. When someone sends you an offer that asks for a fee for a job that pays a lot of money for very little work, or they ask for a lot of personal information, which puts the unsuspecting at the risk of identity of theft. You can protect yourself, by checking that company out with your local BBB. Don’t send them any money, or give any personal information, unless you are sure it is a legitimate job opportunity.
Small Businesses- On Protecting Customer Information: Both consumers and business must be careful to never send sensitive information such as account numbers, PIN numbers, Social security number or SIN by email. Small business owner have a duty to be aware of what information they are receiving, and who is looking after it. Keep guard of your business files. Require that all your employees use strong passwords.
Make sure you do not collect unnecessary information from customers or other businesses. Always be aware of where the information is stored and keep it secure. Check with Federal, State and Provincial laws to see which customer information needs to be protected. When discarding business papers always make sure you dispose of sensitive information by shredding, burning or some other method that will render them permanently destroyed. Always do background checks on employees before hiring them. Make sure you train your staff to recognized security threats.
Protect your computer system. If your computer is compromised disconnect from the internet immediately. Protect yourself when outsourcing any of your business, especially if that company is handling any papers that have sensitive information on them. Have that company checked with the BBB and check if their standards for security of data are the same as yours.
Condo Sales Scams: This happens when someone sees a condo they like that is being sold by a builder, either online, or as part of a building project and they are not familiar with the builder. The buyer buys, only to find that the square footage wasn’t what they promised and the apartment they get after the it is built is not at all like what they promised in the ad . They find themselves with a property that they either have to sell back to the builder or keep.
You can protect yourself from this in a couple of ways. First of all, when looking at property, have a real estate agent present with you. When agreeing to sign any contracts, consult a lawyer first. Check out the local legislation for rights and responsibilities of builders, realtors and buyers.
Unfortunately, as life gets more complex, scam artists seem to abound. According to statistics the average loss is around $1000.00 and 3.5 million N. Americans are victims of identity fraud every year. It would be nice if everyone adhered to an honor system, but that is not the world we live in, therefore it is very important that we be vigilant and we guard ourselves and our business against the unscrupulous. There are resources to help with this daunting task. The BBB offers a wealth of information on this subject, so does your local bank as well, as many sites such as Scam Busters and Rippoff.com. Don’t let scam artists steal from you, be on guard.