Columbus, OH - Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences toBBB’s Scam Tracker.
In December, Central Ohio consumers reported losing over $5,000 to scams.
BBB analyzed 36 Scam Tracker reports from December 2017 to shed a spotlight on four scams affecting our Central Ohio community:
Phone Scams: The top means of scam contact this past month was through telephone calls. BBB would like to offer the following tips to help consumers combat scam calls:
Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. If the caller is legitimate, they will leave a voicemail. Even if a scammer chooses to leave a message, you can take time to determine if it is worth pursuing instead of being put on the spot.
Be wary of recorded messages telling you to press a number to be removed from the call list. Since pressing a button confirms that you have a working number, it is best to hang up.
Some scammers may call and impersonate trustworthy businesses, charities or even government agencies. The best way to avoid these types of scams is by hanging up, looking up the organization’s phone number and calling back to directly speak to a representative.
Visit DoNotCall.gov and join the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ to help lessen the number of calls you receive. Joining the registry will not completely stop scammers, but you should receive fewer calls.
Nomorobo.com offers an app for both landlines and cell phones to block any phone call that comes in as an automated or machine-made call.
2. Debt Collection Scam: A disabled Veteran in Columbus, Ohio received a threatening call from an individual claiming to be collecting a cell phone debt from 10 years ago. The caller asked for $10,000, but the veteran did not pay.
Seven other consumers reported receiving aggressive phone calls from people posing as debt collectors, saying they will be arrested or sued in court if they did not pay immediately.
Despite the threats, these "debt collectors" do not have any legal power. In most cases, the alleged overdue loan does not even exist. Do not give in and pay money you do not owe. If you do, the scammer will likely be back for more.
If you receive one of these calls, ask the debt collector to provide official "validation notice" of the debt. In the U.S., debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won't provide the information, hang up.
You could also ask the caller for more information. If you do owe money and are not sure if the caller is real, ask for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Do not provide any bank account, credit card, or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If the collector is legitimate, they should have details on the accounts in question.
3. Tech Support Scam: A woman from New Lexington, Ohio received a pop-up on her computer with Apple’s contact information. She called “Apple Support” and reached a person who said she was being hacked from various places around the world. The scammer explained that she would have to buy iTunes and Visa gift cards to fix the problem. She purchased the gift cards and lost $2,500.
A Grove City, Ohio man experienced his computer locking up, and a message that told him he had five minutes to call the number on the screen or his computer would shut down. He called the number and was skeptical but nervous, so he sent them $299 for virus protection, then blocked his debit card the next day. The scammers left an icon on his computer that looks like a security company logo and told him to call them again if there were any more problems.
Protect yourself from tech support scams:
Don't ever give a stranger remote access to your machine: Granting someone remote access to your computer permits them to install malware and access your files.
Be wary of anyone calling you and claiming to be from a big-name tech company. Most big tech company employees will not call customers who have not asked to be called.
Don't believe Caller ID: Victims report falling for this scam because the calls appear to come from Apple Support. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so don't believe what you see on your phone.
Think twice when you see a pop-up notification on your computer that isn’t from a program you installed. Scammers make tech support scam pop-ups that look like they’re coming from your computer, but they are actually ads displaying in your internet browser.
Check out BBB Tips: Many tech support scams use similar techniques; see bbb.org/techsupportscam/ for more advice.
4. Employment Scam: A woman from Hilltop, Ohio was searching for jobs online at Indeed.com when she found a “Personal Assistant” position with Off Center Marketing. She received assignments and instructions via text along with a check in the mail, telling her to deposit the check and send some money back. She deposited the check and sent the money back with a Walmart to Walmart money transfer. The bank later advised her that the check was fake and she was responsible for paying back the $1,900 she withdrew.
It’s simple for scammers to create fake company websites, emails and job applications. Many work-from-home schemes sound too good to be true and promise a large reward for minimal work. Be wary of any business that only wants to interview you over the phone or asks you to wire money for any fees or supplies.
Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free atbbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.