Mechele Mills BBB

Mechele Mills, Courtesy

Halloween is not the only occasion people disguise themselves as someone they’re not. Impostor scammers are out in full force all year long. While there has been a decrease in the number of victims so far in 2020 — the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports approximately $300 million in losses — a 15 percent increase over 2019 numbers. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) cautions consumers to verify all calls, texts, social media messages and emails from well-known organizations or individuals, particularly if they are requesting payment or personal information.

Impersonating a well-known brand or someone with authority is a very common tactic used by scammers to gain access to your financial and personally identifiable information. That’s why it’s so important for consumers to know how to recognize and avoid this costly scheme.

BBB warns consumers about the following common impostor scams:

Bogus going out of business scam. Be on the lookout for fake ads disguised as COVID-19 related going out-of-business sales. Victims report receiving low quality items or no items at all.

Google image scam. Use caution before clicking on a link inviting you to view an online photo album. It could be a fraudster trying to access your Google log in information.

Utility impostor scam. Utility company impostors claim to be a representative from the local water, telephone, electric, or gas company. In the most common scenario, the fraudster will say a payment is overdue and will threaten to shut off if your utilities unless you pay immediately.

Bogus bank texts. If you receive a text message alerting you of fraudulent activity on your account, never respond with account, pin, or personal information. Instead, call your financial institution to verify fraudulent activity and whether or not they sent you a text message.

IRS impostor scam. There are many ways to tell if a call about tax debt is a fraudulent IRS call. According to the IRS, people with overdue taxes will always receive multiple contacts, including letters and phone calls. They will also notify taxpayers via mail before sending their accounts to a private collection agency. The IRS will never send you a text message or ask you to make payments via gift card, wire transfer or other unconventional method.

Emergency scam. Also referred to as the Grandparent scam or Family/Friend scams, this scheme involves the impersonation of a friend or family member in a fabricated urgent or dire situation. These emergency calls pull on your heart strings and plays on your emotions as they plead for help and money. Verifying whether or not the call is legitimate is easy. Simply hang up and call your family member or friend to confirm or deny the caller’s claims.

Tech Support scams. This scammer attacks one of two ways. Either a tech support rep calls you at home and offers to fix a computer bug, or a popup warning appears on your screen instructing you to dial a number for help or to give “tech support” remote access to your computer. Your computer is then held for ransom until you pay up. You’ve also given someone access to your personal information.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to impostor scams:

• Never give out personal information over the phone. If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up immediately. If it’s important, they will leave a message.

• Verify information. Ask the representative if you can verify their identity and call them back. Look up the main number for the agency they claim to represent, call and ask to be directed to them.

• Never click on suspicious links. Beware of links in unsolicited emails/texts or those found in ads on social media sites. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi, as these networks are not secure. When entering financial or credit card information, be sure that the website is security enabled (https).

• Don’t make payments using unconventional methods. Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or by sending funds via prepaid debit cards or gift cards.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call 903-581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

ABOUT BBB®: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

TWITTER: @PhilHicksETFS

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