BBB Greater Kansas City Offers Consumer 3 Tips to Avoid Fraud in 2014

March 05, 2014

Kansas City, MO - March 5, 2014

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~George Santayana

Scammers seeking to take advantage of the unsuspecting are constantly devising new ways to carry out their fraud, but one of the best ways to avoid victimization is to draw from recent experience and apply those lessons into a plan of protection.

2013 was marked by scams that exploited technology to deceive consumers online, whereas some scams relied on more traditional methods. To help consumers better recognize scams in 2014, the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City offers these 3 tips to keep you protected.

Be Discerning on Social Media

Social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great for connecting with friends, family and colleagues—but don’t be too liberal about who you accept as a ‘friend.’

Recently, there has been an increase in theft of people’s online identities by scammers who can create fake profiles or learn valuable information about you, your habits and associations to use to target you and better scam you down the road. Just as marketers and advertisers mine personal information to learn how to best target you—so can the unscrupulous.

Connecting to new ‘friends’ with whom you have no history on social media and other networking sites can open up a Pandora’s Box of trouble.  

In sum: remember, technology has made it easier and provided new options for scammers. Avoid connecting with people you don’t know, protect personal information by keeping privacy settings high and don’t broadcast confidential information.

Check It. Twice.

Often times, a simple ‘fact check’ or extra step can be enough to avoid the headache and consequences of common scams.

Last year, scam texts, or “smishing,”were a common tactic used to send fake bank alerts requesting consumers to verify account information to reactivate a debit card. In a case like this, the smart thing to do is simply contact your bank directly, through a verified phone number, to ensure the request is authentic and to complete the requested action.

Another example from 2013 was the targeting of sellers on auction sites, like EBay. In the Auction Reseller Scam,sellers received fake emails appearing to be from PayPal confirming payment fora purchase and directing them to ship the same day—when in fact the seller had never received compensation. The lesson: always take the extra step to log into PayPal or EBay to confirm payment has been made before shipping, especially to an overseas address.

The time invested to check the facts or take the extra step are indeed a small price to pay for your security.

Your Phone is Still a Target

As online fraud and data breaches continue to dominate the news and the focus is largely on online safety, it has become easier to overlook the fact that scammers are still targeting consumers by way of tried and true means: phone calls.

That means it has also become more convenient for crooks to catch you off-guard.

As we learned last year from the widespread ‘Affordable Care Act Scam,’ ‘Do Not Call Scam’ and ‘Medical Alert Scam,’ tele-scams are still alive, well and more timely and convincing than ever.

One recent phone scam has even cost consumers money without them having to say a word or divulge personal information. The ‘One Ring’ scam, which we reported aboutin January, features perpetrators who program their computers to call random cell phone numbers, ring once, and then disconnect. When a person sees they missed a call and calls back, they are reportedly connected to a paid international adult entertainment service or other premium service outside the country and billed a $19.95 international call fee. In some cases, scammers may only put through a small charge of several dollars to avoid suspicion.

Caution on social media, due diligence in ensuring requests for personal information are legit and not over estimating the safety of your ‘smartphone’ are all surefire ways to decrease your chances of being victimized this year. Use common sense. Trust your gut. And don’t take actions—even small—that don’t make sense.