If there’s anything I hate worse than a scam, it’s a scam that uses a trusted name in order to take advantage of people. Better Business Bureau recently received consumer complaints about a couple of scams that had something in common: the scammers claimed to be representing BBB.
BBB Green Dot card scam
In the first call, the consumer reported receiving numerous calls from a scammer claiming to be from BBB asking him to get a Green Dot card so he could claim a prize and get tax free money. The calls came from an 876 phone number from Jamaica. The consumer hung up and reported the incident to BBB, but the scam following this template usually asks for some kind of fee to cover administrative costs and promises a bigger payout in the future.
This scam, with a few variations, has been making the rounds and has been reported to other BBBs. Last month, NBC released a story about the practice, put together with cooperation from BBB.
With Green Dot MoneyPak and other cash-load cards, you can go to a supermarket and convert cash into digital currency that you can then load onto a prepaid debit card or PayPal acccount. The 14-digit authorization code gives you access to the money.
If you give a scammer that authorization code, he can use it to load your money onto his prepaid card. He can then go to an ATM for cash, or use it to buy easily-fenced items such as electronic goods.
‘BBB Florida’ money wiring scam
The second consumer reported receiving a call claiming to be from “BBB of Florida” (which doesn’t exist). The caller told her she was being awarded money from a BBB lawsuit. All she had to do was send funds for the legal fees – preferably by wire.
The consumer stated she has purchased a number of timeshare vacation packages that she was unable to use. The caller reportedly told her he knew she had spent $3,000 on these packages and the lawsuit would return all the money she spent plus 40 percent. All she had to do was send $513.12 for legal expenses. She was told she would receive her payout in 24 hours if she sent a money gram. 180 days if she used a credit card and two to three weeks if she paid with a check by mail.
The consumer said she asked if it was a scam and asked for a phone number. The caller then hung up.
This scam also resembles other timeshare-related scams, as this WatchYourBuck.com post noted. Scammers who have sold timeshares in a fraudulent manner sometimes return to the same victim and offer to recover their money.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- Don’t give out information. Never provide any personal information to unknown callers, including bank information, Social Security Number and contact information.
- Don’t wire money. Never wire money to unknown individuals. Wire transfers are untraceable and there is no opportunity to recoup money if you have been scammed.
- Don’t pay up front. If you’ve really won a prize, you don’t have to pay anything in advance — not a penny for taxes, fees, or anything else. It’s illegal to charge upfront for a prize.
What should you do if you think you are being scammed?
- Hang up and don’t call the scammer back. It may be tempting to have the last word, but returning the call could give the con artist information he can use.
- Report phone scams to the FTC. If you experience telemarketing fraud of any type, report it online to the FTC or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- Report scams to BBB. For more on how to avoid scams, or to report a scam, check out BBB Scam Stopper.
- Get on the Do Not Call registry. It won’t stop scams entirely, but joining the national Do Not Call registry can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive.