Marketplace Alerts for May 2011

May 31, 2011

In an effort to keep the public informed, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina offers monthly Marketplace Alerts. Information regarding business or consumer topics reported here can be obtained through the BBB office by contacting      

BBB cautions consumers to beware of a telephone scam related to overdue payday loans. Consumers are receiving calls from people alleging to represent agencies, including the FBI and law firms. The caller claims to be collecting debts from well-known companies, but will not provide any information about the payday loan. The caller also attempts to instill fear by threatening the consumer with jail time and legal actions. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from consumers.

BBB has been alerted that scam artists have been contacting U.S. real estate agents and real estate attorneys claiming to be interested in purchasing property in the U.S. The scam artist typically requests a property listing and says they intend to pay cash for the property. The scam artist will also ask the realtor to provide a local attorney to handle the purchase and closing. After the real estate attorney deposits the check for the property, the scam artist requests that a portion of the funds be wired to his account. The victim is unaware that these checks are typically from legitimate business accounts that were fraudulently obtained by the scam artist.

BBB has been informed by consumers of a new scam fraudulently using the Council of Better Business Bureau’s name. Consumers are receiving calls from a scam artist who claims to be with CBBB. The caller states that the consumer has won a large sum of money, but first needs to wire a fee to receive the money. The caller also asks for personal information, including the consumer’s bank account number and Social Security number. Avoid wiring money to someone who awards you with something too good to be true, and never pay money to accept a prize.

Real estate scams have become very prevalent recently, and BBB alerts consumers to do their homework before putting down a rental deposit. Scam artists are posting phony rental homes on Web sites, and asking interested consumers to wire the first and last month’s rent. Once the money is wired, the consumer never hears from the scam artist again, and the Web site typically disappears. Prior to sending any money, BBB recommends consumers check with the state assessor’s office to determine who owns the property. Also, search for the address online to see if it shows up on any other real estate Web site for sale or for rent. Scammers often take a home listed on a legitimate real estate company’s Web site and put it on their fake Web site.

In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, BBB is warning consumers to watch out for a slew of cyber-scams that have popped up recently. On Facebook, a fake video purporting to show the death of bin Laden prompts users to input a malicious URL into their browsers that could infect their computer with a virus. Consumers and businesses should also be very wary of scams, similar to the Nigerian letter scam, that are circulating around bin Laden’s death. Although each letter may contain a slightly different appeal, the latest letter is from a “soldier” asking for assistance in transferring millions of dollars of excess money to a trustworthy U.S. citizen. BBB recommends consumers avoid clicking on any questionable links or attachments, and be wary of any requests to wire money to an unknown source.