Roanoke, VA – Robert Smith (name changed for his protection) has been calling the Better Business Bureau for years, so when the man on the phone claimed he was the BBB treasurer, calling on behalf of Publisher’s Clearing House, Robert knew something was off.
“I just started laughing at him. He asked me what was so funny and I told him he was a scam. He hung up on me pretty fast.”
Mr. Smith is one of many consumers who have reported receiving calls this week from scammers pretending to be BBB officials, calling on behalf of other organizations. These callers have name dropped the IRS, Federal Government, and various well known sweepstakes organizations. The one constant variable in the calls has been the use of the BBB name in an attempt to appear trustworthy.
“On one hand it appears even scammers know folks trust the BBB name,” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. “But we want to stress that BBB does not represent any government agency or sweepstakes lottery, and will never call you and demand payment on behalf of another organization.”
In many of these scam attempts, the caller will say the BBB is involved to make sure the transaction goes through smoothly. They will also use threats or tempting prizes to trick their targets into compliance. In Mr. Smith’s case, it was a brand new Mercedes.
“I asked him what kind of Mercedes it was. He told me he didn’t want to spoil it for me, but that the interior is black [laughing] – he couldn’t even tell me what model it was!”
No matter if the caller claims to represent BBB, the IRS, or any other organization, keep these tips handy to ensure you are not their next victim:
Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. If it’s a legitimate contact, they will leave a message. Even if a scammer leaves a message, this will give you time to think about what is being asked of you.
Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make any number they like appear on your phone’s caller ID. They often will use local numbers to gain your trust.
Never give out any personal information over the phone when you are not sure of the caller.
Be wary if you are being asked to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The IRS will give you the chance to question or appeal what you owe.
The IRS doesn't call, text or email. The IRS won't call about payment or overdue taxes without first contacting you by mail.
Don't wire money or use a prepaid debit card. Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. It's like sending cash: once it's gone, you can't trace it. The IRS says it will never demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.
If you believe you may have fallen for this, contact your bank and credit card companies to flag your accounts. Check your account daily - the earlier you identify unauthorized charges on your accounts, the easier it will be to recover any lost money.
Write down the phone number of those callers violating the Do Not Call Registry and file a scam report with BBB Scam Tracker and the FTC's Do Not Call List.
For more information fraud, please visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western VA at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution service, scam alerts, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBBWesternVA and on Facebook at facebook.com/BBBWesternVA.