On average, the Better Business Bureau is tracking more than 150,000 scams at any one time. Here in our office at Lima, we are on the front lines of that, constantly getting calls from consumers in our area regarding emails, texts, phone calls and other notifications we have received and whether they are legitimate. I have a couple examples from this past week.
We received numerous consumer phone calls alerting us to, essentially, the same email scheme. The concerned consumers said they had received an email from either PayPal, Apple Subscriptions or Amazon regarding an overpayment, double billing or non-deliverable product. The email indicated that, in order to process a refund, the recipient was required to click a link and fill out a refund form.
Completing the form was a process of answering questions and filling in blanks. Several pages long, the form included typical questions. However, the common factor alerting our callers to the possibility the email could be a scam was that each form requested the recipients’ Social Security number and mother’s maiden name.
We had several of these phone calls and, luckily, all our callers said they immediately terminated the form-filling session. Keep in mind that if you have an Amazon, Apple or PayPal account, the companies already have your information. If you need to change that information, you must log into your own account, or you must call them. They would never call you.
Even the BBB is not immune to scammers’ efforts. One morning this past week, within 35 minutes, I received two identical email form letters to my BBB email address, supposedly from Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Here is what the emails said:
“Subject: Email Alert!
Recently, we discovered some unusual activity or updates on your account that we believe may be unauthorized. For your protection, we have temporarily suspended use of this account until you verify the activity. you will not be able to use deposit/withdrawal features until this issue has been resolved
What you need to do
Please contact us as soon as possible to confirm your recent activity or to let us know if you think this account was used without your permission.
• In person: Visit any Wells Fargo branch and speak to a banker. To find a branch near you, visit us online.
• Online: Go to review and verify account activities to continue using your account
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.”
This is exactly how the email appeared with the grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
Needless to say, I trashed these emails. Beside the fact that within 35 minutes I received two identical emails, they had several other red flags:
• Neither of the sender email addresses actually contained a WellsFargo.com address.
• The “review and verify account activities” link failed to show a WellsFargo.com website address.
• The big tip-off was our office does not have a Wells Fargo account!
Finally, BBB does not charge for inquiries or services. This past Wednesday a consumer called us, saying they had gone online and found a chat site for reporting scams to BBB. Once connected, the operator on the other end said there was a $59 charge for an online chat with a BBB attorney, and the caller would have unlimited access for $59 per month. They just needed the caller’s credit card number.
Our consumer said that was too much, she just wanted to ask one question. The operator then said she could do that for $5. Unfortunately, our consumer gave her credit card number. We told her she should alert her bank immediately to make sure no unauthorized charges were made. Again, BBB never, ever charges for inquiries or services!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.