BBB Quick Tips: Cyber Security Awareness

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) and between data breaches, cloud storage privacy issues, and bugs compromising personal passwords, identity theft protection is on the forefront of many people’s mind.

This year, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is partnering with National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) to promote the “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” campaign. STOP. THINK. CONNECT. is an online awareness campaign that offers advice for all internet users to stay safe and secure.

Cybercrime comes in many forms—online identity theft, financial fraud, hacking, email spoofing, information forgery, and intellectual property crime. It can wreak havoc on victims’ lives and at its worst, cybercrime can lead to financial ruin. American consumers reported losing over $1.6 billion to fraud overall in 2013, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual report.

BBB encourages you to take these extra security measures to protect yourself against identity theft and other cybercrimes during National Cyber Security Month:

  • Keep a clean machine. Whether it is a PC, mobile device or laptop, make sure security software is current and up-to-date. Having the latest software on all devices can be one of the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  • Protect personal information. Shred all statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, and billing statements for utilities and phone service.
  • Change passwords for all online accounts regularly. When changing your password, make it long, strong and unique, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. By keeping various passwords on your accounts you lessen the risk of multiple accounts being compromised.
  • Steer clear of suspicious texts, emails and links. Unsolicited emails and pop-up ads can be full of computer viruses designed to steal usernames and passwords from your computer. Don’t give in to curiosity. Close or delete the message.
  • Connect with care.  Use caution when logging on to public Wi-Fi hotspots and send personal information only to websites that are fully encrypted.
  • Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family and colleagues to encourage them to be web-wise. You can find your BBB on Facebook or Twitter for the latest scam alerts and information. You can also find helpful consumer information and tips at watchyourbuck.com.
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BBB Investigation: NASABB, LLC gets ugly response to undelivered beauty products

ID-10080149Austin-area business NASABB LLC sells African hair and skin products such as shea butter in its online store. Many consumers complain to Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin that they had to wait weeks or even months for the products they ordered, if they receive them at all.

As of Oct. 8, 2014, NASABB received 22 complaints in the past three years, 14 within this last year alone. The business has failed to resolve more than half of those complaints.

Consumers whose complaints were resolved informed BBB that they received their order or refund, but well past the expected delivery date.

BBB attempted to reach the business by mail, email and phone, but has received no response since Jan. 2, 2014. The business’s phone number goes to a recorded message stating, “Thank you for calling NASABB. Our phone hours are Tuesday through Wednesday, 12:30 to 3. Phone lines are currently closed. If you are hearing this message it is for one of the following reasons: maintenance, it’s a holiday, we’re on our regular season break, and bad weather.”

According to their website, NASABB, LLC is located at 3720 Gattis School Road #800-235 in Round Rock, Texas 78664. (Based on Google Street View, 3720 Gattis School Road appears to be a residence with no evidence of multiple suite numbers.) The business sells products online, from www.nasabb.com.

Consumers attempting to reach the business report having a hard time getting the company to respond to questions about their orders.

Jessica Cummuta of Madison, Wisconsin ordered shea butter lotion from NASABB, LLC in January. She still hasn’t received her product or a refund. “My stepmom actually recommended the company,” Cummuta said. “She liked their products. I got their products twice and they were fine. The third time, they just never came.”

Livia Peras of California has ordered products from NASABB in the past and has experienced shipping delays—but she has been waiting close to four months for her most recent order.

“I’ve been getting their product for years,” Peras said. “They always had problems with shipping. Usually the delay would be about a month, then I would email and they’d ship it to me. This time I complained to BBB because they charged me immediately and I ordered in April. Finally I disputed the charges with American Express.”

David Howard of Arizona said he ordered $102.08 worth of products from NASABB in June 2013 during an online “Christmas in July” sale, held in June and July. Howard said he finally received the products he ordered from NASABB, but it took almost 10 months.

“Their system is too slow,” Howard said. “They need to tell people upfront what it’s going to be and stick to it. It took almost 10 months to get all the products I ordered. They finally made good, but they didn’t do it as advertised. I finally got hold of them on Facebook and they responded. I couldn’t get through on the phone lines.”

When buying merchandise online, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, charges made on a credit card can be disputed up to 60 days after the purchase.
  • Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or an email confirmation. Print and save any receipts for future reference.
  • Know your rights. Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
  • Do your research. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org before making a purchase to see its BBB rating, complaint history and any advertising-related issues.
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Fake Green Dot MoneyPak sites ripping off consumers

scam alert 150x150There are many scams that ask potential victims to pay advance fees using Green Dot MoneyPak  cards. It’s convenient for criminals, because the transactions are nearly impossible to trace.

Now, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns of a new scam involving fake Green Dot MoneyPak websites. According to IC3, victims generally find the websites with Internet searches and usually interact with fraudulent customer support over the phone.

The fake websites’ operators primarily rip off consumers in two ways: 

1. The victim seeks a refund from an already-purchased MoneyPak card and contacts the scammers with the contact information found on the fraudulent website. The fake representative asks the victim for the pre-paid card and their bank account number. The scammer can then drain funds from both the card and the victim’s personal bank account.

2. The victim has already been ripped off by a separate scam that involved use of a MoneyPak card. The victim finds the fake MoneyPak website and calls “customer support” trying to get a refund. The fake customer support rep tells the victim to reload the card with the same amount they lost to the previous scammer and says, “reloading is the only way to process the refund.” If the victim reloads the card, the scammer will drain the funds. If the victim refuses, the scammer will hang up.

Bogus websites can come and go quickly. To avoid becoming a victim of these fake sites, you should only use the website and phone number listed on the back of the MoneyPak prepaid cards.

If you have been scammed by a fake MoneyPak website, report it to http://www.ic3.gov.

Green Dot has advice on how to avoid getting scammed at https://www.moneypak.com/

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BBB warns against Jasmine Travel scam

scam alert 150x150BBB Serving the Brazos Valley & Deep East Texas is warning the public against an airline ticket scam that has been targeting international students wishing to travel to India.

On Monday, Oct. 6, Texas A&M University Police Detectives informed BBB that 17 international students had attempted to purchase airline tickets from Jasmine Travel, which they found on an Indian classified site, http://www.sulekha.com.

The website was offering airfare to India for $700 cheaper than anywhere else.

TAMU Detectives found that the website was claiming an address in Forest Hills, New York that was actually a Citibank office. Jasmine Travel was also claiming a Los Alamitos, California office that was actually another travel agency called Adam Intelligent Travel.

A BBB search for “Jasmine Travel scam” found a ScamAdviser.com report that showed the company to be in Jakarta, Indonesia, but with two servers in Georgia.

The Eagle and other media outlets report that the FBI is investigating the company, but if it is based in another country, the FBI will likely be unable to recover their money.

BBB urges consumers to reduce the risk of getting ripped off by avoiding “too good to be true” offers.

 

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BBB warns of top 10 risky famous faces

ID-100100924People love celebrities. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be celebrities, would they? Unfortunately, curiosity about your favorite celebrity could make you the victim of a phishing scam or a virus.

Most people are unaware of the risks involved when searching for celebrity and entertainment news. “Click baiting” is a way to get someone’s attention online. They engage with potential identity theft victims by offering something that is too intriguing to ignore–like messages that claim new videos, shocking information or scandalous news. Click bait often leads to a sketchy website or a link that downloads malware on the user’s computer or smart phone.

For the eighth year, security technology company McAfee has identified the “Most Dangerous Celebrities” whose names and images are most widely used by scammers as click bait. The riskiest personalities on the web are:

  1. Jimmy Kimmel (comedian, actor, talk show host)
  2. Armin van Buuren (Dutch DJ and music producer)
  3. Ciara (singer-songwriter, dancer, Grammy winner)
  4. Flo Rida (rapper, People’s Choice award winner)
  5. Bruce Springsteen (rock legend, 20 Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
  6. Blake Shelton (country singer, judge on The Voice, husband of Miranda Lambert)
  7. Britney Spears (pop singer, former child actor)
  8. Jon Bon Jovi (singer-songwriter, philanthropist)
  9. Chelsea Handler (comedian, writer, talk show host)
  10. Christina Aguilera (pop singer, actress, Grammy winner)

People can do their part by being vigilant in practicing safe online behavior. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin along with McAfee recommend the following:

  • Don’t download videos from suspect sites. Most news clips you’d want to see can easily be found on official video sites and don’t require you to download anything.
  • Beware of clicking on third party links. Before you click, hoover the cursor over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites. You should access content directly from official websites of content providers. For example, visit ABC.com to find Jimmy Kimmel’s latest episodes.
  • Always use password protection on your phone and other mobile devices. If you don’t and your phone is lost or stolen, anyone who picks up the device could have access to your personal information online.
  • Using the cloud is like using someone else’s computer – and some friends may have good security while others may not. Consumers should treat the cloud as any other asset that requires protecting.
  • Don’t click just because a “friend” shared it. It might not actually be your friends who are liking or sharing on social media. Their account may have been hacked by scammers attempting to spread phishing or malware links.
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FTC shuts down telemarketers who falsely claimed to be Medicare representatives

government actionOf all the scams out there, the ones that probably make my blood boil the most are those that target seniors. At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court recently shut down an operation by telemarketers that falsely claimed to be part of Medicare.

The defendants allegedly tricked seniors into giving up banking and other information and took millions from their bank accounts without providing any type of service.

According to an FTC complaint, the defendants called consumers said they were providing a new Medicare card or information about Medicare benefits. They allegedly misrepresented that they were part of Medicare and convinced the victims to provide personal information.

The defendants allegedly told victims the new Medicaid card was free and their accounts would not be charged. However, they allegedly debited the victims’ bank accounts either $399 or $448 using remotely created checks.

The FTC charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule. Defendants are Sun Bright Ventures LLC, Citadel ID Pro LLC, and Benjamin Todd Workman. Trident Consulting Partners LLC and Glenn Erickson were named as relief defendants who profited from the scheme.

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Start with trust before you buy your next event tickets

ID-10053882Fall has finally arrived in Texas. That means lots of popular events, from outdoor music events like Austin City Limits Music festival, to big football games. Tickets for some of these events can be hot commodities.

If you’re looking for event tickets, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin urges you to be cautious–or you could end up with a phony ticket or even have your identity stolen.

Last year BBB received over 2,200 complaints nationally against event ticket sales and ticket brokers. The most common complaints came from people who paid for tickets that turned out to be fake, or who paid in advance for tickets they never received.

Legitimate ticket brokers should be happy to answer questions, send a receipt and verify business information.

It’s not just fake tickets you have to be on the lookout for, it’s important to keep your personal information in mind at events too. Often at large events, promoters may offer you the chance to win a prize or ask you to fill out a survey to get something for free.

It’s a good rule of thumb to not give out personal information, especially sensitive information like your Social Security Number and financial information. If approached, don’t be afraid to ask questions. What is the business’ name and address? What do they do with the information collected?

If they cannot answer these basic questions, that’s a red flag. You can also use your smart phone to look up their BBB Business Review on bbb.org before you give your information.

If you are looking to buy special event tickets, BBB advises:

  • Do your research. When purchasing tickets through an online broker. Check out their BBB Business Review at org for details about the company, history of complaints and customer reviews.
  • Check policies. Research the ticket broker’s refund policy before purchasing. Assess the company’s policy for customer satisfaction and details on reimbursement for cancelled events.
  • Verify the tickets are real. Always ask for a section, row and seat number to confirm the seats match up with the venue. Search for guidance online about how the tickets should look and compare them to the ones you want to buy.
  • Pay with a credit card. Always use a credit card so you have additional protection. Never pay with cash or wire money. There is little to no way of getting your money back if the tickets do not arrive.
  • Watch for hidden fees. Some websites include service charges and additional shipping fees. While these charges should be identified on the website and disclosed to you before the transaction is finalized, read the fine print to make sure you know the total cost that will be billed to your account.
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BBB calls for entries for regional BBB Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics

Better Business Bureau encourages businesses to show off their ethics

2015HomepageButtonBetter Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is now accepting entries for the regional 2015 BBB Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics competition. These awards recognize businesses that are committed to high ethical standards and service to its customers, employees, investors and overall reputation.

BBB created the Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics regional competition to recognize and celebrate ethical business practices for companies located in Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. Spotlighting these companies fits the BBB mission, which is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.

Any for-profit business in the 79-county service area of BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin can submit an entry for the 2015 BBB Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics. Deadline for submission is Friday, Nov. 21. While BBB Accreditation is not a requirement, businesses must be in good standing with BBB and have at least a “B” rating with BBB to be considered for this honor.

Map

Our BBB includes the following Texas counties: Andrews, Aransas, Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bee, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Bosque, Brewster, Burnet, Caldwell, Calhoun, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Crane, Crockett, DeWitt, Dimmit, Duval, Ector, Edwards, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Frio, Gillespie, Glasscock, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Hays, Hill, Howard, Jackson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, Kleberg, Lampasas, La Salle, Lavaca, Limestone, Live Oak, Llano, Loving, Martin, Maverick, McLennan, McMullen, Medina, Midland, Mills, Navarro, Nueces, Pecos, Reagan, Real, Reeves, Refugio, San Patricio, San Saba, Terrell, Travis, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Victoria, Ward, Webb, Williamson, Wilson, Winkler and Zavala.

The winner of a BBB Torch Award has the unique opportunity to receive public recognition for their excellence in ethical business practices. Winners at the local level will be announced January 2015 and will have the opportunity to move forward to the International BBB Torch Awards for Marketplace Excellence competition.

Five businesses were awarded the 2014 BBB Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics in January of this year. You can watch interviews with each of those winners by clicking here.

Businesses may also register to attend a FREE how-to workshop webinar for help with submitting an entry on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 by clicking here. For entry forms and additional information visit: go.bbb.org/1x9wkTc

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Former Corpus Christi investment advisor gets 20 years for securities fraud

ID-100128578Investors in William Charlton Mays IV’s operation may have thought they were buying gold and silver, but it turned out they were only investing in a pyramid.

The Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) recently announced that Mays, a former investment adviser in Corpus Christi, Texas has received a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted on securities fraud and theft charges.

Mays was sentenced to 20 years for fraud and 10 years for theft in the 214th State District Court of Nueces County. He will serve the sentences concurrently. He was also ordered to pay $102,117 in restitution and pay $20,000 in fines.

Mays sold investments in gold, silver, and commodities, promising clients annualized returns of between 6 percent and 18 percent. However, very little of the $225,000 he raised from investors was used to trade commodities. Most of the money was spent on personal expenses including child support, payment to a credit card company to settle a lawsuit for nonpayment, restaurants, grocery bills, housecleaning services and pool maintenance.

According to the TSSB, Mays made some payments to investors, but only as part of a Ponzi scheme–one investor who received most of his money back was paid with funds from another investor. In most cases investors received only a small fraction of the funds they put into the operation.

Mays had legal and financial troubles before he launched the commodities trading scam, but didn’t disclose them to investors as required by law. In 2011, Mays was hit with a $42,924 tax lien from the IRS as well as a $20,289 final judgment in a civil court case.

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