BBB Warns of Scams Around Train Derailment

March 27, 2015

The recent derailment of a train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil had Governor Tomblin declaring a state of emergency in Kanawha and Fayette counties. Unfortunately, this also could mean an increase in scam artists using the accident and environmental tragedy to lure unsuspecting victims.

"Scammers love to take advantage of the hype surrounding major news stories and consumer's willingness to help those in need", says BBB President Frank Cilona.

Possible scams to watch for:

Click Bait Scams: In addition to impersonating victims or family members on Facebook, con artists also post teasers for "sensational" video footage relating to the event. Click the link, and you may be prompted to "update the video player" or take a survey before viewing. Either action may download malware on your computer to open you up to identity theft or give scammers information (such as email addresses and cell phone numbers) they can sell to spammers.

Phishing emails: Emails that appear to be from well known, established companies, such as the Red Cross, will look official and will ask for your help. The email will instruct you to either click on a link or open an attachment, which will either download malware to your computer or leads you to a form that phishes for information. Malware hunts for confidential or banking information on your machine and could open you and your company up to identity theft.

Take the following steps to protect yourself and others from scam link shared through email and social media:

  • Don't take the bait. Stay away from promotions of "exclusive" or "shocking" or "sensational" footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.
  • Hover over links in emails to reveal their true destination. Scammers can make links appear to lead to a legitimate website, when they really point to a scam site. Don't click on links leading to unfamiliar websites. 
  • Watch for lookalike URLs. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e "") or part of a longer URL (i.e. "").
  • Don't open attachments from unfamiliar sources. Legitimate businesses rarely send unsolicited emails with attachments. Always confirm an email is real before you download anything.
  • Consider how the business normally reaches you. Did you sign up for email alerts from your health insurance provider or does your HR person typically convey policy updates? A change from normal communication patterns is likely to be a scam.
  • Contact the business or organization. When in doubt, call the business's customer support line to check the legitimacy of the email. Be sure to find the phone number by a web search - not the email or website the scammers gave you.

Charity Scams - Since scammers often focus on emotional appeals or disaster in the news, be wary of any solicitations using the phone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet (including social networking sites), and mobile devices to obtain donations.

Avoid any charity fundraiser that:

  • Does not provide detailed information about its identity, mission, or explain how the donations are used.
  • Won't provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.

Start With Trust. For reliable information, visit or call 1-800-362-0494.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Kimberly Thompson at 330-454-9401.