LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
P.O. Box 190 • Whitley City, KY 42653
Every year, BBB receives thousands of calls and emails from consumers who have been scammed. Some scams are widespread, getting a lot of people for small amounts. Others are more narrowly focused, but take people for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Here are BBB’s Top Scams of 2013:
Medical Alert Scam –With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to “verify” their identity and, as a result, were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded. Be wary of “free” offers that require your personal information upfront.
Arrest Warrant Scam – In this scam, con artists are taking advantage of technology that can change what is visible on Caller ID, and allowing them to pose as the office of the local sheriff or other law enforcement agency. They call to say there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these “police” don’t take credit cards; only a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do. Sometimes these scams seem very personal; the scammer may refer to a loan or other financial matter. It may just be a lucky guess, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are about to be arrested.
Invisible Home Improvements – Home improvement scams vary little from year to year, and most involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. The hardest for homeowners to detect, are repairs or improvements to the areas of your home that you can’t see: roofs, chimneys, air ducts, crawl spaces, etc. Scammers may simply knock at your door offering a great deal because they were “in the neighborhood,” but more and more they are using telemarketing, email, and even social media to reach homeowners. Check out home contractors at bbb.org before saying yes.
Scam Texts – With online and mobile banking skyrocketing, it’s not a surprise that scams quickly follow. One major tactic recently is the use of scam texts, known as “smishing,” to steal personal information. They look like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link on your smart phone. Banks of all sizes have been targeted, and details of the scam vary, but the outcome is the same: scammers get your banking information, maybe even your ATM number and PIN. You may even download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone.
Scam of the Year: Affordable Care Act Scam - Scammers used the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Scammers would call claiming to be from the federal government and saying the would-be victim needed a new insurance card or Medicare card. However, before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information. Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank’s routing number and ask you to provide your account number. Or, they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information. Sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft.
For more tips, go to www.bbb.org.
Reanna Smith-Hamblin, Vice President/Communications Better Business Bureau serving Louisville, Southern Indiana, and Western Kentucky