The scam log is a running list of scams and fraudulent offers which consumers and businesses have reported to the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. Have you been targeted by a scam or are you concerned that you’ve fallen victim to a scam? Please call 651-699-1111 or submit your scam online!
We welcome anonymous reports and will not use your name in any capacity, though we may contact you if we have follow-up questions regarding your experience.
- January 5, 2012: A Twin Cities consumer contacted us to say they had received a call from someone claiming to be with 'Global IT.' The caller told the consumer they were noticing problems with their 'Microsoft Windows Computer' and they were going to need remote access to repair the problems. The consumer, knowing there were no issues with their computer, hung up. The call showed up on caller ID as having a 425 prefix, although it's possible the caller ID info was falsified (spoofed). NOTE: This is a big old scam! Don't forget, you call a computer tech when you're having problems with your personal computer - they don't call you! Granting anyone (other than an authorized computer tech, one you've contacted yourself) remote access to your computer can lead to major problems, including possible financial or identity theft. Do not do it!
- October 11: A Twin Cities consumer contacted us to say they had been targeted by 'the grandparent scam.' The consumer received a call earlier today from someone claiming to be their grandson. The 'grandson' said that he and his wife were in Mexico City because a couple they knew couldn't go (so they took their place). While in Mexico City, they met a Canadian couple, with whom they shared a ride. Alas, they were pulled over by the police and there were - wouldn't you know it? - 2 pounds of narcotics in the vehicle. Anyway, long story short, the grandson needed $3,500 for bail and court fees. When the person who received the call noted the caller didn't sound anything like their grandson, he informed her he 'had a cold' and that's why his voice sounded strange. At that point, a 'police officer' picked up the line and told the potential victim that if they told anyone (other family members or the authorities) about what was happening, the grandson would 'never make it over the border.' NOTE: Oh, yes, this is a scam. Luckily, the person who received the call did the right thing by calling the grandson's father. He made a quick call and reported back that his son (the potential victim's grandson) was safe and sound at home on his couch. If you receive a phone call like this, be aware this scam is widespread and there are many variations of it. The best thing to do is to stay calm, don't let yourself be pressured and always verify your loved one's whereabouts.
- September 21: A Twin Cities consumer who had posted an ad for a snowmobile they were selling, contacted us with concerns about a potential buyer that had contacted them via email. The buyer, who went by the name Prince Michael, sent an email rife with spelling and grammatical errors to the seller - often a red flag indicating you're dealing with overseas scammers. Prince Michael offered to send the seller a check for $1,500 MORE than the asking price. At that point, the seller became concerned and contacted us. NOTE: We're glad they did so. This is a classic overpayment scam and you can bet the 'buyer' would have provided instructions on where the seller should wire the excess funds (and they would likely claim it was for shipping costs). Had the seller followed these instructions, they would have quickly discovered the check they received was bogus and the funds they had wired away were gone - for good. If you're looking to sell an item online, know who you're dealing with. Never accept checks for more than the amount you're selling the item for and never wire money to people you don't know.
- September 20: A Fargo business reported a problem they were having with a company called National Imaging. This company began contacting them recently demanding payment for a box of toner. The Fargo business flatly denied ever ordering any product from the company and refused to be bullied into paying. In fact, they told their employees that if National Imaging called, they should either hang up or put them on hold and leave them there. NOTE: Good advice!
National Imaging has an F rating with the BBB of Colton (California): http://www.la.bbb.org/business-reviews/Office-Supplies---Sale-by-Deceptive-Telemarketing/National-Imaging-in-Van-Nuys-CA-13136094. If you ever receive a bill for supplies you didn't order (or didn't receive), don't pay it. You also don't have to return the unordered merchandise. To protect against these scams, designate an employee as your purchasing agent. All orders should have an authorized signature and purchase order number. Delivered merchandise should be matched against purchase orders. Scams of this nature are common - don't be a victim!
- September 6: A BBB employee received an automated phone call offering to reduce the interest rates on their credit cards to 1.5%. The company making the offer was Financial Freedom Credit Counseling. NOTE: While that offer sounded inviting enough, a quick search at www.bbb.org revealed the company has an F rating with the BBB of South Florida: http://www.bbb.org/south-east-florida/business-reviews/debt-relief-services/financial-freedom-credit-counseling-in-dania-beach-fl-92021451. Anytime you receive an offer which sounds suspicious or 'too good to be true' always take the time to check it out with your BBB. Many companies who make these offers claim they want to help you, but they're really just looking to help themselves - to your money.
- August 27: A consumer from North Dakota contacted the BBB to report they were receiving calls from a company called Global International Lottery. The caller told the consumer they had won over a million dollars,(!) a new BMW and a trip to sunny Las Vegas! All she had to do was send them $300 to insure the check. (Um, yikes..). Fortunately, the consumer suspected the call was fraudulent and threatened to report the company to the BBB. That should be the end of the story, right? Wait, it gets better! Shortly thereafter, she received a call from the same phone number, and guess what? This time the caller claimed to be “Angela Smith" calling from the North Dakota BBB! NOTE: Though we are proud to serve North Dakota, we do not have an Angela Smith on our staff. Nor are we in the habit of awarding million-dollar prizes. Or BMWs. Or trips to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, many scammers know that consumers trust the BBB name and they will sometimes exploit that to lend credibility to their bogus pitches. Remember, the BBB does not call consumers and request money for any reason, nor do we offer prizes or sweepstakes, lavish or otherwise. We provide a majority of our services free to the public (thanks to the support of our Accredited Businesses). For the record, as of 8/30/11, Global International Lottery has an "F" rating with the BBB of Eastern Massachusetts.
- August 25: A consumer forwarded the BBB an email they had allegedly received from Western Union, which stated that “investigation officers” were working with MoneyGram to track down “various fraudsters” in Africa and Europe. Imagine the consumer’s surprise to learn that they supposedly had found her name in their database amongst those who had sent money to overseas scammers! The email warned the consumer they should never respond to emails or calls from such scammers and then boldly stated (and we quote):
“ A meeting was held between the Royal British Legion under the appointment of Her Majesty The Queen and The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to compensate you with US$100,000 only.”
This “compensation,” they said, would arrive in the form of a Western Union Prepaid Gold card which would ship immediately after activation! The email advised the consumer to contact the provided phone number for “The Western Union agent office at the Royal Post,” a call that would no doubt involve an attempt to solicit financial information (Bank/credit card info) from the consumer. NOTE: You got it: this 'friendly' email is a one-way ticket to Scamville! It’s certainly ironic, but it isn’t uncommon for scammers to claim they're on the side of right. Many of these operations pose as banks or real companies, so that victims will feel comfortable sharing sensitive financial and personal information - such as account numbers. Remember, even if the 'helpful' alert sounds and looks official, make sure it passes the 'sniff' test. Those people who claim they're trying to help you might actually be looking to defraud you.
- August 23: Consumers seeking canine companions should always be on the lookout for puppy scams, many of which originate in Africa - particularly Cameroon. This May, a Minnesota student lost over $1,000 while attempting to purchase a puppy she saw advertised online. The phony pet seller claimed a Minneapolis address, but was actually operating out of Cameroon. Earlier this month, a classified ad ran in Penny Savers USA, an online portal for classified ads and coupons, offering free Yorkshire Terrier puppies -- a breed which typically sells for $250 - 2,000 per puppy. The consumer who reported this questionable ad to the BBB also stated that the advertiser assured her that all fees would be covered. However, shortly after that she received an email stating that the breeders were at the airport ready to ship her puppy, but now needed $170 for 'ownership transfer.' At that point, she suspected the offer was fraudulent - and she was right! NOTE: While pictures of adorable puppies may stir your interest in owning a pet, never act impulsively when making a purchasing decision. Be on the lookout for ads that offer purebred puppies for free or at prices too good to be true. Also, watch out for ads with misspellings and grammatical errors; this is a sign you're likely dealing with overseas scammers. Also, when selling a pet, never deal with people who offer to send you a check for more than the requested amount under the conditions that you wire the excess funds back to them (or any of their affiliates, such as deliverers or handlers). A good rule to follow is this: Never wire money to people you don't know.
- August 17: A consumer contacted the BBB to report phone calls they were receiving from a person claiming to work for the FTC. The caller claimed to have access to the consumer's banking history and accused the consumer of laundering money for an overseas resident, based on 'numerous suspect transactions,' which allegedly amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Naturally, the FTC employee needed personal information from the consumer, most importantly their bank account number, to 'verify the launderer's identity.' 'But don't you have that information?' the consumer asked, and then requested the caller's full name. The caller would not provide that information and said that since the consumer wasn't cooperating, law enforcement officials would issue an arrest warrant within the hour - unless the fine was paid over the phone. The consumer replied they were happy to hear the authorities would be getting involved and that they would have a county sheriff standing by on their end. With that, the caller hung up. NOTE: The caller quite obviously had no connection to the FTC or any other government agency. Don't be intimidated by callers who claim to be government employees or law enforcement officials and then ask for personal information (SS#, sensitive financial info). This is not how government employees or law enforcement officials operate. The trick is not to panic and always be on your toes.
- August 12: The HR Director of a Fargo business forwarded a suspicious bill they had received to the BBB. The bill was from a company called Minneapolis Classified Publishing. The business showed no record of dealing with this company and suspected the billing was fraudulent. After a quick investigation, the BBB agreed: http://minnesota.bbb.org/article/BBB-Advises-Businesses-to-watch-for-Bogus-Billings-28939. NOTE: Fake invoices are a common way scammers collect money from unsuspecting businesses. To avoid this scam, be sure your company has a protocol for handling billings. Train your staff to be on alert for suspicious invoices and be sure to track your orders and shipments, matching them up to corresponding billings.
- August 2: A BBB staffer received a blocked call (on their work line) from someone claiming to be with Publisher's Sweepstakes. The caller began by informing the BBB employee they had been entered into a drawing where the top prize was $25,000. From there, they were informed they were going to receive a free Geneve diamond watch. But wait! That's not all! The BBB staffer was then informed they were going to receive free subscriptions to three magazines of their choice - but hold on; that's still not all! They would also have an opportunity to receive three more magazines (also of their choice) for the low, low price of $3.89 per week for 60 months. The BBB employee, beginning to grow more than a little bit suspicious, asked how much that would amount to. The salesperson replied, 'I don't do the math.' At that point, the BBB employee went ahead and did the math: it would amount to just over $1,000.00. The BBB employee then identified themselves as an employee of the BBB and began to ask questions, such as 'Where are you calling from? Who are you with again?' At that point, the salesperson became rather evasive and ended the call by saying, 'Have a nice day.' NOTE: Though this is perhaps not a 100% scam, it's at least 90-95% of the way there. For while a person may receive their watch (which would certainly NOT be a diamond watch) and magazines (or they may not receive them) from organizations such as this, the bottom line is the price, even spread out over five years, is far higher than subscription prices available from reputable magazine sellers. Always take time to do the math before agreeing to a magazine sales pitch over the phone (or in-person) and always be sure you know who you're dealing with. Check out companies first at www.bbb.org and ask for everything in writing before agreeing to anything. A footnote: a search at BBB.org revealed more than one organization operating under the name Publishers Sweepstakes and it appears likely one or more of those organizations may be out of business.
- July 31: A consumer contacted us to say they had been on Facebook when they received an instant message from a friend who they hadn't spoken to in five years. The message said this friend was in London and had been robbed, and they needed help paying a $700 hotel bill. The consumer wisely posed a number of questions to the person contacting them and, based on their vague answers they received in return, decided not to act on this request. NOTE: This is a variation of 'The Grandparent Scam,' where elderly people receive calls from people posing as loved ones (often grandchildren) claiming to be in a bind and needing cash quickly. The consumer handled this perfectly: they didn't panic and they took time to ask specific questions only their friend would likely know. A couple of hours later this consumer received a call from the friend that was supposedly in London. They were calling to say their Facebook account had been hacked.
July 27: A consumer received a call saying their spouse had won 3rd place in a consumer raffle for Betty Crocker. As the 3rd place winner, that entitled them to a new Mercedes-Benz, $100,000 in cash and a check for $3.5 million - not too shabby! All they would have to do is send $2,500 via a Green Dot MoneyPak card to cover insurance and delivery costs. How about that? All that for 3rd place! NOTE: Yeah, you guessed it: it's a scam. First, we've never heard of a Betty Crocker consumer raffle. Second, all that for 3rd place? What would the first-place winner get? An all-expense paid trip to the moon? No, the best idea is to apply common sense and remember, if you have to pay upfront to receive your prize, you haven't won anything.
- July 18: Consumers in our area have been contacting us to say they've received mailings from Data Release Division, telling them they've won over a million dollars and they just need to send $19 to receive their winnings. NOTE: We very much wish all of these mailings were accurate. However, they are not. First, no legitimate prize or sweepstakes requires you to make a payment upfront to claim your reward. Second, what people are actually paying for with their $19 is the 'opportunity' to receive information on lotteries and sweepstakes which they can enter and earn the chance to win large amounts of money. The parent company of the Data Release Division is The Reporting Center, and as of July 18, that company has an F rating with the BBB of Metropolitan New York.
- July 13: An employee with the newspaper in Detroit Lakes contacted us to say business owners in their area were receiving calls from someone claiming they were putting together a community guide and offering advertising space to businesses. The business owners assumed it was the local paper calling, but that wasn't the case. The employee of the newspaper said this has happened before, where an out of state business has pretended to be local, sold advertisements over the phone and then ultimately failed to distribute the publication/guide as promised. NOTE: True enough. It's always good to know exactly who you're dealing with when purchasing anything, including advertising, and be sure to also ask how many guides/schedules will be printed and when and how they'll be distributed. Get everything in writing and always check out the company first at www.bbb.org.
- July 1: A consumer contacted us with concerns about a mystery shopping offer they received via email. After indicating interest, the consumer received a check in the mail for $2,700 and instructions to spend the money at various stores and then wire a portion of the funds back to the mystery shopping firm, keeping the rest as payment. The consumer was concerned the offer was fraudulent. NOTE: They were right to be concerned: it was a scam! Though there are legitimate mystery shopping firms, this is not how they operate. They do not provide payment upfront and ask people to wire money back to them. That's what scammers do! Believe it or not, after the consumer declined to participate, the scammers followed up with them warning they would involve the State Department if the consumer didn't play ball. We told the consumer not to be intimidated. That threat was nothing more than hot air.
- June 28: An East Coast consumer contacted us to they had received a call telling them they had won $1.5 million dollars. To claim their funds, they would have to wire $3,500 to cover taxes on their winnings. Instead, they sent $250 via Express Money Order (USPS) to a party in Duluth, Minnesota. Since doing that, the consumer has received several calls seeking more money. NOTE: Yup - scam. You never want to wire money to people you don't know and if you're paying upfront fees on your winnings, you're not a winner; on the contrary, you're going to lose. The authorities have been contacted, and if the scammers really are in Duluth (it's possible the funds were re-directed) we're hoping they'll be tracked down and brought to justice.
- June 23: A consumer contacted us yesterday to say they had been scammed at a website claiming to offer replacement Social Security cards. The website, which is now shut down, collected an upfront payment from them and then told them they could pick up their new card at the nearest Social Security office within a few days. When they went to the Social Security office, they were told the website was not legitimate and payment is not required for a replacement Social Security card. NOTE: Though phone books are falling out of favor with segments of the population, they're a great way to find contact information for government agencies. If you rely on the Internet, be aware there are many fake sites (designed to look official) out there created solely to deceive and defraud consumers. Be leery of any websites asking for upfront payments.
- June 22: As far as we know, the following scam hasn't hit our area yet. This is a newer scam which was brought to our attention by the BBB of East Texas: Apparently, scammers are calling hotel guests in the middle of the night and pretending to be a hotel employee. They tell the sleepy guest that the hotel's computer system has crashed and they need the customer's credit card information again to complete an audit they're running. Many times these scammers will offer a discount on the room for the 'inconvenience.' It's currently unknown if the scammers are on the hotel premises or if they're calling from a remote location. Hotels, resorts and other businesses in the hospitality industry are encouraged to inform their guests of this scam so that they know what to watch out for. NOTE: Thank you, East Texas BBB!
- June 20: A Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) consumer contacted the BBB today to say they received a call informing them they had won a prize package, which included a new car. The consumer was immediately skeptical and told the caller that. The scammer then claimed a Better Business Bureau affiliation and promised the prize package was real.
At that point, the consumer thanked the caller for their time and said they would check this out with the BBB. An operator at the BBB quickly informed the consumer the offer was fraudulent. NOTE: 100% correct, this is a scam. The consumer also reported the call they received came up on caller ID as having an 876 prefix, which indicates the call came from Jamaica. Many phone scams targeting Americans originate in Jamaica. As always, consumers are advised to be extremely leery of calls informing them they've won cash or prizes - especially calls claiming an affiliation with the BBB or FTC. Neither of these agencies award prizes of any kind, nor do they endorse any contests or sweepstakes. In virtually every case, calls like this are fraudulent in nature and designed solely to defraud consumers. Remember, anytime you're told you have to pay money upfront to claim a prize, you haven't won anything.
- June 15: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had purchased home exercise equipment from a website a Craiglist ad linked to. The original ad offered this exercise equipment at a remarkable discount (50% off). When the consumer followed up on the ad, they were told to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card and make payment that way. When they did so, the consumer did not receive the equipment and was out the money they had sent. NOTE: After investigating this 'offer', the BBB has determined scammers have been running this fraudulent operation for awhile, moving from Craiglist ad to Craigslist ad, website to website. The most recent phony website they've been operating from is www.directhomefitness.com. The BBB is warning consumers to be very leery of websites and Craigslist ads offering home exercise equipment at steeply discounted rates. We've also issued the following warning: http://minnesota.bbb.org/article/scammers-offering-cheap-home-exercise-equipment---dont-buy-it-27843
- June 8. A consumer contacted the BBB to say they received a phone call telling them they had won $450,000 from an organization called American Cash Awards. However, before they could claim their prize they would have to go to a Walgreens and purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak (a reloadable debit card) to pay the $110 in fees on the winnings. NOTE: You guessed it: it's a scam. Any time you have to pay anything (be it taxes, fees or insurance) upfront to claim a prize, you haven't won anything. Consumers should also be advised that more and more scammers are now soliciting funds through Green Dot MoneyPaks. You should never provide your MoneyPak number to someone you don't know and you should always avoid websites that won't take credit cards and ask you to purchase a MoneyPak.
- June 1. A consumer informed us they had been contacted by a company calling itself Fraser Brokerage, claiming to be operating out of Fargo, North Dakota. They told the consumer they would be able to offer them a $5,000 loan but first the consumer would have to make four payments of $147 (each) upfront. NOTE: This is an Advance Fee Loan scam - do not fall for it! According to the FTC, it is illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone to promise a loan or ask you to pay for it before they deliver. Requiring advance fees for loans is also illegal in Canada. Also, the address this 'company' is claiming in Fargo is in the same building the BBB's Fargo office is in. Fraser Brokerage is NOT at this address.
- May 25. A consumer reported that they had received a call from someone claiming to be with the FTC. The caller said the consumer had won $350,000(!) and all they would have to do is pay $3,500 to pay insurance and tax on the winnings. Sigh. NOTE: This is yet another scam. The FTC is a consumer protection agency. They do not award cash prizes or any prizes, for that matter. If you get a call like this, the only way you can win is by hanging up the phone.
- May 13. A Minnesota consumer contacted us to say she had received a call from someone claiming to be with the BBB. The consumer was told they had won a $100,000 prize. However, when the consumer checked her caller ID she noted that the call was coming from Jamaica. NOTE: The BBB doesn't have an office in Jamaica, nor do we sponsor sweepstakes or award cash prizes. On the other hand, Jamaica is a hotspot for scammers and they often target Minnesota consumers. If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately and report your experience to www.mnscams.org.
- May 11: Consumers are contacting us about an advance fee loan company called Hartford and Flemming Financial, which is allegedly located in Minneapolis. These consumers are saying the company is promising people loans in exchange for payments upfront -- thousands of dollars in some cases. NOTE: This is an advance fee loan scam. According to one report we've received, the company isn't located at the address they're claiming in downtown Minneapolis. It is the experience of the BBB that customers who pay these upfront fees never receive their loans and are often unable to recover money sent to the scammers. It is also illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver. If you've fallen victim to this or any other advance fee loan 'company', report your experience to www.ic3.gov.
- May 10: A resort owner contacted us regarding an email they had received requesting a quote for a vacation package. They were immediately suspicious -- here's why: The email says 'i want to know if there is any availability for 5 peoples which are coming to spend there vacation trip with your company, we will spend 10 days. Actually we need fishing trip with two boats in our vacation holiday.' In a later email, the 'customer' offered to send their credit card information. The resort was to charge $13,500 to that card, keep $4,000 and send the balance to a 'language translator.' Wisely, the company declined to go ahead with this transaction. NOTE: This is a classic overpayment scam. Hotels and resorts are often confronted with this. Red flags to watch for are: poorly worded emails, 'customers' who communicate only via email, and especially situations where credit card information is offered and a request is made to have it charged for funds in excess of the estimate and to have those excess funds transferred or wired elsewhere. You do not want any part of 'offers' like this!
- May 5: A consumer called in late April to say she had received a call from a man who said he was with Earth International. He informed the consumer she had won $50,000. When she asked how she could claim her money, the man hung up the phone. NOTE: We're going to go out on a limb here and say this was a scam. Perhaps the scammer got nervous? Had second thoughts?
- May 4: We're receiving reports from Minnesota consumers being contacted by people claiming to be BBB representatives. These people are being told they've won large amounts of money. NOTE: The BBB is a non-profit organization. We don't sponsor sweepstakes or offer cash prizes. On the contrary, we exist at least in part to remind people that individuals contacting them (via fax, phone call or email) telling them they've won large cash prizes are lying 99.99% of the time and actually trying to get money FROM them.
- March 24: The CEO of our BBB received an email regarding donations to the relief effort in Japan. The email was from an organization calling themselves 'Network for Good' located in Nigeria and it seemed to want donations to the relief effort routed through their organization. NOTE: This is not a good idea. If you're interested in donating to the earthquake/tsunami relief efforts (and we hope you are), it's best to do it directly at the charity of your choice's website (for ex. The Red Cross). A great many scams originate out of Nigeria, and it's just best to be careful. Also, a Google search revealed no trace of this organization. Be very leery about any solicitations you receive via email claiming to be from charities and always be certain you know who you're dealing with before providing your credit card information.
- February 24: A consumer contacted the BBB to say that they had received a suspicious job offer though an online job search site. The offer they received seemed unusually lucrative; allegedly, simply by working a few hours a week, they could earn thousands of dollars per month. They felt it was suspect and wanted us to be aware of it. NOTE: Thank you. Though this offer was received through a legitimate job search service (where you can post your resume') it was NOT legitimate, and in fact, could have gotten this person in serious legal trouble. The company making the 'offer' was allegedly located in Moscow. What this person would have done, had they accepted the offer, was transferred payments via wire to the scammers - essentially serving as the middleman between victims and scammers. For their efforts, they would have received a very small percentage of the funds they transferred AND a very good chance of being arrested as part of this scheme. If you receive an offer like this, report it to us and then hit delete! Be extremely wary of ANY job offer that promises you can make large amounts of money working only a few hours a week.
- February 21: A BBB Accredited Business contacted us to say they had received a suspicious e-mail. It was purportedly sent by a woman overseas who was very ill. However - lucky break - she was very wealthy and was looking to share her fortune with someone who could enjoy it. All they would need to do was work with her attorney to coordinate the transfer of funds into their account. Easy, breezy, right? NOTE: Why, of course - not! This is a total scam. Why would anyone overseas contact an American company (or any American) and say they have some money they would like to give them? It makes no sense, none whatsoever. If you get an e-mail like this, hit delete. We're sorry to say there is no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny and no one overseas looking to share their fortune with you.
- February 10: One of our employees received a text message informing them (in Spanish) they had won $60,000 and a new Toyota Hilux!! We're all really excited and can't wait to see that new vehicle and all that money! NOTE: We're kidding. It's a total scam. Nobody's won anything. This is just an attempt to get some information, so the scammers can either steal the identity of our employee or try to siphon money from their bank account. After some investigation, we discovered the text originated in Guatemala. We know you've heard it before, but repeat after us: if it sounds too good to be true...well, it is.
- February 8: We've received word that the jury duty scam might be making the rounds again (sigh). Here's how it works: an unknown caller claiming to be a jury coordinator contacts you and tells you that because you skipped jury duty, there's a warrant out for your arrest. If you protest and say you didn't receive a summons, they'll then ask you for your Social Security number and date of birth so they can 'confirm that.' Once they have that, of course, they can steal your identity. Or in other cases, they've informed concerned victims that they can clear the matter up by making a credit card payment. Either way, you're a victim. The best way to protect yourself? Never give out personal information over the phone to unknown callers.
- February 2: A consumer alerted us to the fact they had received an e-mail solicitation stating they had a 'bank draft of $800,000 which awaits payment of $50 USD.' So apparently, all they had to do was pay $50 to receive $800,000. Not such a bad deal. Except...NOTE: It's a big old scam. First, the sender's e-mail address indicated they were overseas - huge red flag. Second, would anyone really expect to get that kind of money for just $50? It seems inconceivable. Something is rotten in Denmark...or wherever this e-mail came from. Our advice? Delete any e-mails like this one - immediately!
- January 26: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a phone call from the Publishers Clearing House in the District of Columbia (?). The caller informed them they had won $450,000 and they would only need to pay $4,500 to insure their winnings. They were even given an official-sounding Security Code to claim their winnings - 317PC304. NOTE: This, of course, was a scam. The consumer suspected that, but called us just to be sure. After we reassured them the offer was fraudulent, they called us back soon afterwards to say the scammers had called them again. After the consumer informed them they had talked to the BBB and we said the offer was a scam, the caller said, 'Have a nice life!!' and hung up. Which we thought, all things considered, was very nice of them.
- January 21: A consumer mailed us a letter they had received informing them they were the grand prize winner of the very official-sounding "American family publishing sweepstakes drawing," which entitled them to the sum of US $450,000.00! A check in the amount of $4,870 had also been enclosed to cover taxes on their winnings. Strangely, though the letter was written on the stationery of a company in Canada (red flag alert!), the check was made out from a healthcare company in the United States. Hmmm.. NOTE: Yup: Scam, scam, scam, scam! None of this makes a bit of a sense: not the uncapitalized words in the title of the 'sweepstakes,' not the involvement of a U.S. healthcare company, and certainly not the helpful check to assist the lucky winner with paying taxes on their 'winnings.' Like we always say; if you're told you have to pay taxes or fees to claim your winnings, you haven't won anything! If the consumer had followed through on this, they would have quickly discovered the check they received was no good and they would be out any money they had wired back to the scammers. You should never wire money to people you don't know.
- January 19: A hotel in the metro area contacted the BBB to say they had received an e-mailed solicitation from a party overseas who sought to book a block of rooms for an upcoming event (sounds good!). The e-mail went on to say they were hoping to overpay the hotel (with a credit card) on the reservations to the tune of $12,000, which they requested be wired back to them (not so good). NOTE: You guessed it; this is a big old scam. Undoubtedly, the reservations would have been paid for with a stolen credit card and the business would have been out any money they sent back to the scammers. For any business owner, anytime an unknown party contacts you about reservations (or products or services), be it online, over the phone or through TTY, and mentions anything about overpaying with a credit card (and requesting that the overage be wired back to them), it's a scam. Though it might sound tempting, especially to companies hungry for business, 'customers' like this will leave you high and dry.
- December 16: A consumer reported that she had been contacted over the phone by someone claiming to be with the BBB. The caller told the consumer that they were holding a package of money for her (the amount was unspecified) and to claim it, they would have to buy two stamps at the bargain rate of $250 per stamp. The consumer chose to pass on this offer. NOTE: This should come as no surprise, but this is a scam. The BBB does not call customers to say we have a package of money for them, nor do we have packages of money lying around. If someone calls you up and says differently, they're the ones who are lying.
- December 13: The North Dakota Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has advised us that a 'company' calling itself Atwater Brokerage is offering consumers advance fee loans and claiming to be located in Bismarck (ND). The company is NOT located in Bismarck (a non-ND resident lost $936 in this scam through a wire transfer to Canada) and it is illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone to promise a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver. Because the ND Attorney General's Office has no jurisdiction over this entity (due to the fact it's not located in North Dakota), consumers who have lost money to Atwater Brokerage are encouraged to file complaints with the FTC (www.ftc.gov) or at www.ic3.gov. NOTE: For more information on advance fee loan schemes, visit www.bbb.org.
- December 6: A metro business owner contacted the BBB to say they had received a phone call from someone claiming to be a Microsoft technician. The caller said their computer system was overrun with viruses and they would need remote access to fix the issues. The business owner provided the information which allowed the caller to gain remote access. At that point, the business owner became suspicious and ended the call. The caller, still with remote access, began to harass them using pictures stored in the computer to taunt them. The business owner turned the machine off, which cut the connection. NOTE: This is a good reminder to be very careful with passwords and information that can compromise the integrity of your computer network. In this case, the business owner would want to contact their bank and change any passwords to ensure the scammers can't come back again to haunt them. Furthermore, you should be leery of any unexpected calls offering to help you with problems with your computer. This is something no computer repair or programming/software company does out of the blue, without first receiving a call from you reporting problems.
- December 2: A consumer informed us they had received an e-mail which, ostensibly, was a friend of theirs. As it turned out, their 'friend' was in London and 'had met with misfortune.' Alas, they needed someone to wire them 1,550 £ (British dollars) - would they be so kind? NOTE: This is a SCAM, a variation of the grandparent scheme, where you're contacted by someone you know only it isn't the person you know: it's a scammer pretending to be a loved one. Red flags here? The e-mail address was bizarre and the person asked for the money in a foreign currency. Most Americans would ask for U.S. dollars. However, if you receive a similar request from a 'friend' or anyone asking for assistance in U.S. dollars, rubles, or what have you, the same rules apply: verify, verify, verify. Do not panic and do not be pressured. Make sure you know who you're dealing with.
- November 29: A consumer alerted us to a website they had found: http://news1reports.com/default-js-8.asp?view=0&funnelid=F180&a=b&siteid=APS&vid=. They wanted to know if the 'story' was real or some kind of scam. NOTE: This is NOT a legitimate offer (nor is it a news article, though it's set up to look that way). The company making this offer has an F rating with the BBB of West Florida (as of 11/29). http://www.bbb.org/west-florida/business-reviews/work-at-home-companies/automatic-profit-system-in-naples-fl-90076075. The claims the company is making - that a person can make $6,000-7,000 per month by working from home 10 to 13 hours per week - are not realistic. We've said it before, but if it sounds too good to be true, it is!
- November 23: A metro consumer contacted the BBB saying they had received an official-looking notice saying they would have to pay $87 to receive a copy of their Grant Deed. They were wondering if this was real or if they were being scammed. NOTE: As you may have inferred, this is a scam. On their website, the Federal Citizen Information Center states that consumers do not have to use a private company to obtain a certified copy of the deed to their home. These deeds are held by the County Recorder's Office and can be obtained for free or at a low cost.
- November 10: A business informed the BBB they received an agreement via fax from an organization calling themselves Yellow Page-Minnesota.com. The word 'free' was listed prominently at the top of the fax. The business owner signed the agreement and faxed it back, thinking it was with their usual Yellow Page directory. Six weeks later, they received a bill for $1,068.00. NOTE: Yellow Page scams are prevalent and businesses must always be on the lookout for them. After researching this 'offer,' the BBB determined the company (Yellow Page Marketing B.V.) is actually located in the Netherlands, with offices in Ontario. They currently have an F rating with the BBB of Ontario. The business owner is disputing the bill, saying the contract was misleading. They have filed complaints with the BBB, the FTC and the MN Attorney General's Office.
- November 8: The BBB received a report from a consumer regarding an offer they had received to become a 'Payment Processer.' The offer was received via e-mail and promised a monthly salary of $2,300 in exchange for work which could be done online from the consumer's home and would take up only 2-3 hours per day. Not too shabby. NOTE: Alas, this is a scam. The 'payments' the consumer would have been processing would almost assuredly been made with stolen credit cards or credit card numbers, making them a potential accessory to whatever crime was being committed. When it comes to 'offers' like these, do NOT pass go (a Monopoly term).
- November 2: A consumer mailed the BBB a letter they had received from 'New Age Claim Services.' The letter kindly informed the consumer they had won $80,000! Good news, right? Um, nope. Wrong!! NOTE: This is a big old scam. First, a quick look at the letter shows the company is listing an address in Canada. Countless scams just like this originate up in Canada. Second, the scammers included a check for $1,959.77, which they undoubtedly expected the consumer to cash and then wire a goodly portion of that money back to cover the 'taxes and fees.' Here's something for all scammers to think about: Wouldn't it make more sense simply to send all the 'lucky winners' the full amount of their 'winnings' LESS the amount of 'taxes' and 'fees'? From an administrative standpoint, that would seem to make a lot more sense..
- November 1: The Atlanta BBB has informed us they're receiving complaints from all over the country against a company called Vacations and Resorts. Apparently, the company is calling consumers and telling them they have a buyer for their timeshares. There's only one problem -- well, two, really: First, consumers are required to pay an upfront fee (BIG red flag). Second, consumers are alleging the company is not keeping their promise once payment is made. Oh, consumers are also saying the company is difficult to reach. Here's a look at their BBB Reliability Report - http://www.bbb.org/atlanta/business-reviews/timeshare-resale-and-rental-marketing/vacations-and-resorts-in-atlanta-ga-27306254?&nostat&gid=ComplaintList.cm.cr.xls&gen=ComplaintList.cm.cr.xls&lid=1
- October 25: Many consumers are reporting they're being contacted by a company called Greenbay Financial Services. This company, which claims to be operating out of Minneapolis, is telling people they qualify for loans but they will first need to make advance payments on these loans. NOTE: This is an Advance Fee Loan scam. Our investigation discovered the company is NOT located in Minneapolis. Also, and more importantly, according to the Federal Trade Commission, it's illegal for companies doing business by phone in the U.S. (and Canada) to promise a loan and then ask you to pay for it before they deliver. It is the experience of the BBB that customers who pay these upfront fees never receive their loans and are often unable to recover money sent to the scammers.
- October 22: The BBB has received reports from consumers who say they've received letters offering them positions as mystery shoppers. The letters contained checks made out to them for roughly $1,500.00 - $950 of which was to be wired back to the 'company' via Western Union. NOTE: This is a scam! You should never wire money to individuals you don't know (many fraudulent offers ask consumers to wire money, often to Canada). Though there are legitimate companies that offer mystery shipping opportunities (for pay), these companies will not send you checks upfront, ask you to cash them and then wire a portion of the funds back to them. If you're asked to do this, don't! Another red flag is if you're asked to pay an application fee to be a mystery shopper. Legitimate companies don't charge fees like this. To ensure you're dealing with a legitimate mystery shopping company, visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at www.mysteryshop.org. Final note: mystery shopping provides a source of supplemental income. If someone claims you can get rich doing it, they're not being truthful.
- October 21: A BBB Accredited Business reported they had received an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS. The e-mail said their federal tax payment had not been received and provided a link to click on for more information. NOTE: Per the IRS's own website (www.irs.gov), they do NOT initiate taxpayer communication through e-mail. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or that directs you to an IRS website, do not reply and do not open any attachments. Instead, simply forward the email or website to firstname.lastname@example.org
- October 15: A consumer forwarded an e-mail they had received to the attention of the BBB. The e-mail was purportedly sent by the widow of a U.S. soldier who had died in Iraq recently and went on to say they were looking to sell a 'like-new' truck at a bargain price. Any interested buyers were supposed to send a $2,475 deposit 'to e-Bay' and then the truck would be shipped to the buyer for inspection. From there, if the truck passed inspection, the funds would supposedly be released (along with the balance due) and that would be that. Convenient, right? Wrong! NOTE: First of all, this is not how e-Bay works. Though there is an e-Bay approved escrow service for e-Bay transactions, e-Bay doesn't offer that service or play a direct role in transactions. Also, the fact the 'seller' is asking for a deposit upfront is a HUGE red flag. This is not how these transactions work. Not to mention the facts that the e-mail from the seller is full of typos and misspellings and the selling price is outrageously low. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is!
- October 7: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from someone supposedly with Wells Fargo Financial, who said the consumer had won $1.5 million dollars. They only needed to pay $800.00 to claim their prize. Then, later, someone supposedly from UPS called to say they would be stopping by to pick up the check. The consumer was immediately suspicious and declined these generous offers. NOTE: The consumer handled this correctly. The callers were scammers and had nothing to do with either Wells Fargo or UPS. Still, the fact they made it sound like they would be stopping by the consumer's home is another reminder of how bold these scammers are. Again, if you have to pay to receive your winnings, you haven't won anything.
- October 4: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received an envelope with a Canadian postmark in the mail. The letter inside told them they had been accepted as a secret shopper and the envelope also contained a check made out to them for $1,970.00. They were supposed to deposit that check and then wire, via Western Union, $1,520 of those funds back to the alleged company who had 'hired' them. NOTE: This 'offer' all but SCREAMS scam. First, the Canadian postmark is a huge red flag. Many sweepstakes/secret shopping scams originate north of the border. Second, the fact the recipient is being asked to wire money back to the individuals making this offer is an even bigger red flag. NEVER wire money to people you don't know. If you do, there's almost no way you'll be able to recover your money. Plain and simple, this is a fraudulent offer. Though legitimate mystery shopping companies do exist, they do NOT operate like this. Always contact your BBB if you receive a suspicious offer.
- October 1: A consumer reported they had received a letter ostensibly from Macy's. The letter stated a check of theirs (the customer) had been returned unpaid and their account had been charged for it, with a fee added on. The letter provided a number the customer was to call to follow up on this matter. The customer felt the letter was fraudulent; they felt they had NOT had a check returned. On a hunch, they called their bank and were informed no checks of theirs had been returned. The customer then contacted the number on the letter and they asked them for their account number. The customer refused. NOTE: The customer handled this 100% correctly. Rather than panic, they took their time and followed up directly with their bank. If you ever receive a letter that doesn't ring true, trust your instincts and never provide sensitive financial information over the phone to unknown parties.
- September 27: A consumer called to say they had received a letter (along with a check for $2,614.03) informing them they had been awarded a $10,000 grant. They were instructed to cash the check, and then call the 'grant providers' to let them know they had done so. At that point, the rest of the funds would supposedly be released to them. The letter also urged them not to tell friends or family about the grant, so the grant providers wouldn't be hounded with requests for grants. NOTE: This is -- you guessed it -- a scam. Chances are, had they cashed the check the grant providers would have requested that some or all of it be wired back to them. Also, the fact they specifically asked the consumer not to tell friends or family about it? That's a HUGE red flag. If you get an offer like this, do yourself a big favor and just say no. Because if you say yes, the only thing that will be granted is a scammer's wish!
- September 21: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a letter (and a check for $3,680) allegedly from State Farm Insurance. The letter said they had won $40,000 and to claim their prize, they would just have to wire $2,980 to Canada via Western Union. NOTE: This is obviously a scam. Neither State Farm Insurance nor any other insurance companies offer cash prizes or sweepstakes. And if you're asked to wire money to claim your winnings, you haven't won anything.
- September 16: A restaurant in the metro area contacted the BBB to say they had been targeted again by a scammer attempting to use the telephone relay service to defraud them. Once again, the scammer attempted to order 200 chicken sandwiches and would have used a stolen credit card to pay for them, leaving the restaurant high and dry. NOTE: This is an old and a very tired scam. We at the BBB, and most likely every restaurant in the tri-state area, wish the scammer (or scammers) would get another hobby. If you're the owner of a restaurant or coffee shop and receive a large order from someone you've never dealt with before using the telephone relay service (or e-mail), be very, very leery. http://minnesota.bbb.org/article/phone-relay-service-used-in-attempted-scam-against-businesses-19912
- September 13: The BBB received two reports late last week from consumers who had been contacted by collection agents threatening them with arrest if they didn't pay up immediately on alleged debts. NOTE: We recently posted an article on calls like this on our website. If you receive a call like this, retain your composure. Threatening people with arrest is something collection agents CANNOT do. For more information, go here:
- September 10: We've had two reports this week from businesses who received collection notices from A.C.A. Recovery, Inc. (located in New Jersey) in regard to debts allegedly owed to Yellowpagesonline. Both companies stated they had not dealt with and did not owe Yellowpagesonline anything. NOTE: Though A.C.A. Recovery, Inc. is a collection agency , that doesn't necessarily mean these debts are valid. The BBB advised both businesses to send letters to the collection agency disputing the debts and file complaints with the BBB of New Jersey, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov). Scams claiming an affiliation with Yellow Pages are very common and businesses need to be on guard against them at all times. As of 9/10/10, A.C.A. Recovery, Inc. had an F rating with the BBB of New Jersey.
- September 9: A consumer forwarded the BBB a copy of a check they had received allegedly from State Farm Insurance. The letter accompanying the check informed them they had won a (surprise, surprise) sweepstakes! NOTE: Neither the letter nor the check is legitimate. State Farm doesn't offer a sweepstakes or pay out sweepstakes winnings, and neither does any other large (or small) insurance provider. The letter the consumer received had all kinds of recognizable logos on it, including the BBB logo. Don't be fooled! Those logos don't indicate legitimate organizations are endorsing fraudulent offers like this, it just means they were added to the bottom of the letter to make it look more official.
- August 31: A consumer forwarded the BBB an e-mail they had received supposedly from and written by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve himself, Mr. Ben Bernanke. 'Mr. Bernanke' starts his communication thusly: 'my dear, this is to notify you today dated 24th aug, 2010 that we received a valued amount of fund to credit instruction from the federal government of America to credit your account with your full inheritance fund sum of us$2.5million from the U.S. bank federal reserve account with our bank federal reserve board in new York.' NOTE: Wow. You really almost need a scorecard to count all the grammatical and capitalization errors in that e-mail -- and that's just the first paragraph. It goes on to ask for the consumer's bank account information and routing numbers. This has scam written all over it, and providing the requested information to anyone you don't know is a terrible idea. And take our word for it, unless you're his wife or a loved one, the real Ben Bernanke would probably not start an e-mail to you with the words 'my dear.'
- August 25: A consumer informed the BBB he had received a call from someone claiming to BE with the BBB. They said the caller told them that because they 'paid their bills on time' they had won a prize. In fact, the caller informed them they had taken 4th-place in some sort of contest which entitled them to $10 million dollars and a new car. The consumer declined this generous offer. NOTE: The BBB is a non-profit agency. Though we encourage people to pay their bills on time, we do not provide cash or merchandise to anyone for this reason or for any reason. Also, if the prize for 4th place was $10 million, what on earth would the 1st place prize be worth?! Long story short, it's a scam. Forget about it.
- August 23: A consumer reported they had received a call from someone claiming to be with a debt collection agency. The caller told the consumer that unless they paid off their bill there would be 'two police officers at their front door the next morning.' After the caller repeated this threat for the third time, the consumer informed them that unless they stopped the harassment 'there would be two police officers at THEIR front door the next morning.' She then hung up. NOTE: First, our hat is off to this consumer. She handled this situation beautifully! Second, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors can not threaten debtors with arrest. Know your rights and never let yourself be pressured into paying a debt you're not sure you owe. For more information on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.
- August 20: A small business owner contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from someone claiming to be a Yellow Pages rep. The alleged Yellow Pages rep told them they were calling about the company's free Yellow Pages listing and offered them a Web listing for $34.95 per month. The business owner says this party or other entities claiming to be affiliated with Yellow Pages have tried to bill them for a similar service, which they hadn't ordered, in years past. NOTE: Yellow Pages scams against businesses are very common. Usually they're invoice scams, where fraudsters claiming an affiliation with Yellow Pages send companies a bogus bill in the hopes it will be paid. Be sure to go through your bills closely. For more information on Yellow Pages scams, check out
- August 20: A BBB employee received an e-mail telling them they could take part in a plan which would give them multiple gift cards worth $200 that can be used at Walmart or Sam's Club, AND multiple paychecks of $300 each week! Even better, it would 'take no time away from their current job or (Better) business. NOTE: Though we're not sure what this plan involves exactly, we're 110% sure it's a scam. When you get an e-mail like this, apply the 'too good to be true' rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it IS!
- August 19: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they noticed mysterious charges were being added on to their phone bill. They contacted their provider, who told them they had probably ordered a service and forgotten they had done so. The consumer maintains neither they nor their family had ordered any service and they have since filed complaints in regard to this matter. NOTE: This is a good reminder to everyone to check their bills closely every month. Though there are occasions when unexplained charges prove valid (such as when a family member orders a product or service without informing the primary account holder), there have been instances when third-party billings have commenced without authorization or explanation and without the account holder's knowledge.
- August 17: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a notification informing them they had won $250,000 -- along with a check for $3,927.00. All they had to do was pay that amount to cover the applicable bond fees. NOTE: This is a big old scam. We'll say it again: scam, scam, scam! The check is bogus and the consumer would have been out any funds they sent to the scammers.
- August 16: A BBB Accredited Business informed the BBB they had received a prize notification from the Data Release Division Office. The letter told them they could claim their $1.4 million prize by paying just $19.99. However, a letter attached to that notification says 'You have not won any money or prize.' NOTE: It's rare that a 'company' like this will come right out and tell you that you haven't won a prize, but they're absolutely right: if you have to pay to collect your winnings, you haven't won ANYTHING.
- August 10: Consumers are contacting the BBB to say they're receiving order confirmation e-mails purporting to be from Zappo's, an online shoe retailer and an Accredited Business with the BBB of Nevada. NOTE: The BBB has determined these e-mails are fraudulent and do not originate from Zappo's. In all likelihood, this is a phishing scam designed to steal passwords or install viruses or malware on users' computers. Consumers are advised not to click on any links in these e-mails and to contact Zappo's directly if they've ordered shoes recently and have questions about their account.
- August 5: A consumer informed the BBB they had been received a phone call from an 800#. The caller told the consumer their grandson (the consumer's) had been in an accident and needed to have $1,500.00 wired to a garage in New York City to have their car fixed. NOTE: This is the Grandparent Scam, where scammers pretend to be someone's grandchild. Quite often, they'll say they're in trouble in a foreign country and need money wired to them in a hurry. Many people have fallen victim to this locally and nationally. Usually after wiring money away in a panic believing they're helping out a loved one, victims discover their grandchild or relative is safe and sound. If you receive a call like this, always verify the situation and don't be pressured. Try calling your grandchild or someone who would know their whereabouts. And if an unknown party calls you and says, 'It's your grandson,' don't venture any guesses (Bobby?) or give them any information to work with. Make them tell you exactly who they are.
- August 4: A metro consumer informed the BBB they had received a notice from Deluxe Digital in jolly olde England, telling them they had won $250,000 in a sweepstakes. The good people at Deluxe had also kindly enclosed a check made out to them for $3,915 -- $2,900 of which the consumer was supposed to wire back to Deluxe. NOTE: Everything about this screams scam. Foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S. Also, that check is phony. Your bank might accept it for deposit, but it would bounce and you would be out any money you had sent back to the scammers or spent against it. The kicker? The notice the consumer received says 'The shoppers sweepstakes (neither word capitalized) is accredited by the better business bureau (also not capitalized).' Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth.
- August 4: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from someone claiming to be with a collection agency. They said the caller was very rude and threatening and would not answer any questions as to what debt they were trying to collect on. They simply informed the consumer they would keep calling until they received their payment. NOTE: You have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Never allow yourself to be bullied by collectors. While most collection agencies do things the right way, there are a few that know now more than ever consumers are concerned about their credit scores and might pay a bill they don't owe just to avoid any potential problems. For more information on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.
August 2: Another consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from National Eagle Sweepstakes informing him he had won $325,000. NOTE: See below.
- July 29: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from the National Eagle Sweepstakes saying he had won $375,000. To claim his money, all he would need to do is buy an insurance policy for the low, low price of $4,000. The kicker? The caller also claimed an affiliation with the Federal Trade Commission. NOTE: The FTC is NOT affiliated with any sweepstakes and you should never have to pay anything to claim your winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you haven't won anything -- you're buying. Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping and handling charges to collect your prize.
- July 28th: A BBB employee received the following e-mail: 'Greetings. I am Miss Linda Smith seeking a partner to assist me collect 12.5 million USD with a finance institution and ready to offer 30% for your able assistance. I will send you details for your verification upon your positive response and thank you in anticipation. Sincerely, Miss Linda Smith.' NOTE: It's always nice to make new friends, but you don't want to be friends with Miss Linda Smith. She's a big-time scammer. If you receive an e-mail or fax like this, delete it or shred it. Do not waste your time -- or money.
- July 27th: Walmart Gift Card Scam: A metro consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from someone claiming to be with Walmart in Sacramento, California. The caller told the consumer they were going to receive a $100 gift card for being a frequent Walmart shopper; however, the consumer would have to pay a shipping and handling fee of $1.95. The consumer felt it sounded too good to be true and declined. The consumer also said the caller informed them their information showed the consumer shopped most often at the Walmart store in Elk River, Minnesota -- which was not the case, though it was the Walmart closest in proximity to their home address. NOTE: The consumer handled this correctly. There's no such thing as a free lunch or a free $100 gift card. And while $1.95 might sound like a deal to get such a gift card, there's every possibility the scammers would have used the consumer's credit (or debit) card information for fraudulent purposes -- and never sent them anything, let alone a $100 Walmart gift card.
- July 26th: Foreign windfall scam: A BBB employee received an e-mail from an individual claiming to be Srood Sherif. In the e-mail, Mr. or Mrs. Sherif claimed they 'live in work in Abu Dhabi and have urgent business which they 'believe will be of interest.' In the attachment that came with the e-mail, it said Mr. or Mrs. Sherif was a bank officer who had come across an account that just happened to have $12,000,000 in it and they were willing to share those proceeds 50/50! NOTE: This is a classic scam. There is no account and there probably isn't a Mr. or Mrs. Sherif either. Anyone who followed up on an e-mail like this would soon find themselves being asked to pay taxes or fees on their portion of the account. Shortly after, they would find they had been scammed. As a rule, clicking on attachments to e-mails like this is a bad idea, as they may contain viruses or malware.
- July 23rd: Phony Grants: Two consumers contacted the BBB to report they had received phone calls saying they were eligible for free grants; one because they 'didn't have a criminal record and paid their bills on time,' and the other because they had simply paid their taxes. Both callers claimed the grants would be through the Federal Government. NOTE: The Federal Government doesn't randomly offer grants to consumers, nor does any other entity, public or private. Grants are offered through any number of foundations, but recipients first need to apply for them and then qualify to receive them.
- July 8th: Stolen Credit Card Scam: A BBB Accredited Business informed the BBB they had received a suspicious and poorly worded e-mail solicitation. The sender of the e-mail was inquiring about prices on metal door frames and wanted to know what type of credit card(s) they accepted for payment. Note: Businesses should be leery of poorly worded e-mails from unknown senders -- especially when the sender comes right out and asks which credit cards they accept, as it's likely merchandise will be paid for with a stolen credit card. This has all the hallmarks of a scam.
- July 8th: FTC/Sweepstakes Scam: A consumer informed the BBB they had received a call from someone claiming to be with the FTC. The caller told the consumer they had won a large sum of money through the National Eagle Sweepstakes. Note: Like the BBB, the FTC is not involved or affiliated with any sweepstakes or prize offers. This offer could not be more fraudulent.
- July 7th: Medicare Scam: A senior consumer informed the BBB they had received a phone call from someone asking them for their Medicare number. They told him he would receive a free pair of shoes. Note: The BBB advises seniors not to give out their Medicare number to unknown parties. Last month, a consumer informed us they had received a call from someone who wanted to do a 'quick review of his Medicare benefits.' At that point, they asked for the consumer's Medicare number. The consumer declined and contacted Medicare. Medicare informed him they DO NOT do surveys over the phone.
- July 6th: Settlement Scam: A consumer contacted the BBB to say they had received a call from someone claiming to be with the BBB. The caller told the consumer they had settlement funds for them from a settlement with a medical company. They asked for the consumer's bank account information so they could deposit the funds in their account. Note: The BBB is not involved with the disbursement of any settlement funds and you should NEVER give out your bank or credit card numbers to unknown parties.
- June 30th: Sweepstakes Scam: A metro consumer informed the BBB they received a letter from the National Awards Advisory Center informing them they had won $1.9 million dollars. To receive their winnings, they had to pay a $19.99 'reporting fee.' The consumer paid that and then didn't receive their prize. Shortly thereafter, they received a letter from the Prize Reporting Center telling them they had won an additional $1.2 million dollars (another reporting fee was requested) and then another letter from Winners Prize International telling them they had won $2 million dollars. NOTE: All of these letters were fraudulent and the prizes non-existent. Be very leery of letters and e-mails telling you you've won an exorbitant amount of money, especially when they're asking you to pay taxes, fees or 'reporting fees' to claim your prize. Assuredly, it's a scam!
- June 29th: Prize/Sweepstakes Scam. A consumer from Southern Minnesota reported she had received a call from Winners International telling her she had won some money and she would have to pay $180.00 to claim her prize.
NOTE: Bad idea! If you have to pay to claim a prize, you haven’t won anything. Also, the BBB in Memphis has this ‘business’ classified as a foreign lottery and foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S.
- June 16th: Sweepstakes Scam. A consumer informed the BBB someone from ‘Global International’ had contacted them with a ‘BBB Code of Approval.’ The caller told the consumer that if they paid a few hundred dollars they would be able to claim their $8.5 million dollar prize.
NOTE: This is a 100% scam! The BBB is not associated with any lottery or sweepstakes. Anytime you’re told you have to pay something to claim a prize, you haven’t won anything. The prize is non-existent and you will be out any money you wire to unknown parties.
- June 16th: Scammers appropriate BBB name. A business owner called the BBB to say she was contacted by what she termed ‘a boiler room operation.’ The person who called her claimed he was with the BBB and he wanted to know if they were planning on moving soon. She told him they had no plans to move.
NOTE: The BBB does not track company movements. Though we will sometimes call to update or verify address information, we do not and would not ask companies if they were planning to move.
- June 15th: Sweepstakes/Mystery Prize Scam. A caller informed the BBB they had been contacted by a party claiming to be affiliated with the BBB. The person reporting the scam said the person who called them ‘had a heavy Jamaican accent’ and said they would be receiving a package via UPS. At that point, the consumer said she wasn’t interested and hung up.
NOTE: Though it’s unclear what the scammer was up to in this case, many scams originate in Jamaica. If you receive an unusual call from a person with a foreign accent, be on guard. Hanging up is never a bad strategy.
- June 14th: Scam Targeting Businesses. The manager of a restaurant in the metro area contacted the BBB to say their restaurant had been the target of the telephone relay service scam (which has been making the rounds) on multiple occasions in recent weeks.
NOTE: For more information on the telephone relay service scam, see http://minnesota.bbb.org/article/phone-relay-service-used-in-attempted-scam-against-businesses-19912
- June 14th: Sweepstakes Scam. A caller informed the BBB they had been contacted by the British Public Clearinghouse and told they had won $500,000 and ‘other prizes.’ They were told they needed to wire $800 through Western Union to cover fees on the prizes. The caller wired that money and was then told they needed to send an additional $1,500.
NOTE: We can find no record of the British Public Clearinghouse and foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States.
- June 11th: Scam Targeting Businesses. Two businesses in the Cloquet, MN area informed the BBB they had been the target of the telephone relay scam (which has been making the rounds).
NOTE: For more information on this scam, see http://minnesota.bbb.org/article/phone-relay-service-used-in-attempted-scam-against-businesses-19912