Four Super-Scary Scams To Watch For This Halloween

woman in witch contest holding jack-o-lantern in front of her faceDon’t let a Halloween scam spook you! Stay a step ahead of those crooks by looking out for these four scams this season.

1. The shipping scam
The internet is brimming with Halloween-themed stores in the months leading up to Oct. 31. Lots of these retailers offer an impressive selection of costumes, accessories and decorations at great prices.

Unfortunately, though, some of the retailers that own such sites will never deliver the ordered goods. That’s because, though the company may exist, and will appear legit, at the end of the day there was never a real intent to ship the item(s). The delivery date may be postponed until after Halloween, or the order might get canceled without notification. Sometimes, the shopper will receive the promised package on time – only the package is empty!

Before placing an order with a seasonal store, look for the company’s physical address and phone number. Check what the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has to say about it and look for information about return and refund policies in case things go south. Finally, as always, be careful about sharing your credit card information with an unsecure site. Look for the lock icon near the URL and the “s” after the “http” in the web address; both indicate you’re on a secure site.

It’s also a good idea to order your costumes and décor in September. This way, you’ll have time on your side if you need to return a costume or a product that didn’t turn out as expected. You’re also less likely to purchase goods from iffy retailers and vendors you don’t recognize when you aren’t pressed for time. Finally, you won’t be forced to spend a ton of money on last-minute shipping costs when you make your purchase early in the season.

2. The fraudulent offer
In this scam, a bogus company advertises a “Super Special Deal” for “Today Only” offer, or something similar. It will offer amazing Halloween goods for prices that are too good to be true and lure lots of unsuspecting customers into the trap. Unfortunately, the company is bogus and the offer doesn’t actually exist. If you purchase the advertised product, you’ll never see the product – or your money.
As with all potential scams, check out a company’s authenticity and a website’s security before purchasing.

3. The fake ticket scam
Planning to take a trip to an amusement park, attend a concert or take in another event on Halloween? Be wary of the fake ticket scam, in which third-party vendors sell bogus tickets to unsuspecting customers right before an event. They’ll also tack on an exorbitant commission, claiming that they need to charge extra because of the last-minute purchase. Of course, the ticket is bogus and they’ll pocket the ticket money, plus the commission.

Make sure to get your tickets to any event you’d like to attend well in advance. Contact the event organizers directly to make sure you’ve reached the right address. If you find tickets being sold online near Halloween time, do a quick online search to see if the event has already sold out. Check for spelling mistakes and erroneous information about the date and time of the event on the ticket, as well.

4. The bogus purchase scam
In this scenario, scammers try to convince you that you ordered something you have no recollection of purchasing just to get you to share your personal information. Once the scammers have this data, they’ll do anything from emptying your accounts to taking out loans in your name or committing full-blown identity theft.
If you receive any emails, phone calls or text messages asking you about a costume you never ordered or a ticket you never purchased, do not engage with the sender or caller. Delete the emails or flag them as spam. Also, block the contact from calling or texting you again. With any luck, the scammer will get the message that you’re not an easy target and leave you alone.

Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and frightfully fun Halloween from all of us here at Advantage One Credit Union!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a Halloween scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
scam-detector.com
help-center.pissedconsumer.com
legalshred.com

Beware Emergency Scams!

collefge age girl shares a meme on her phone with her grandmother while they have lunch at a cafe“Grandma? Is that you?”

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Grandma, you gotta help me! They’re going to arrest me if I don’t pay the fine — and I lost my wallet! I don’t have a penny on me or any ID. Can you wire me some money?”

Does this sound like a phone call that can really tug at your heartstrings? It’s actually more like a diabolical plot by devious scammers. There’s no emergency, no imminent arrest and no lost wallet. In fact, it isn’t even your grandchild on the line; you’re speaking to a criminal who wants to get their hands on your money.

Family emergency scams, often referred to as “grandparent scams,” are some of the most nefarious around. They prey on the elderly and take advantage of the natural affection a grandparent has for their grandchild. They’re usually pulled off in the guise of a frantic phone call, though they sometimes show up as an urgent email, text, or social media post using the same panicky message.

Don’t be the next victim of this ruse! Read on to learn how to identify an emergency scam and what to do if you’ve been victimized.

3 ways to spot an emergency scam:

1. The caller will insist upon absolute secrecy
Once your “grandchild” has had their say, the scammer will then take the phone, impersonating an authority figure who is out to make the arrest and demanding that payment be made immediately. They’ll stress the importance of keeping the entire business hush-hush so nobody gets hurt. But, of course, the real reason behind their need for secrecy is to keep you from doing too much digging and identifying the scam for what it is. Any true law enforcement officer would have no request for such secrecy.

2. The “authority figure” will only accept certain means of payment
If you ever receive a phone call insisting that you wire money, send a prepaid debit card, cashier’s check, or certified check in return for helping your grandchild from a distressing situation, you can be certain it’s a scam. Criminals love these payment methods because they provide the victim with very little recourse once they’ve discovered the scam.

3. Your “grandchild” does not know basic information about themselves or family
It’s hard not to be duped into helping out your grandchild when they sound so stressed on the phone. It can also be hard to recognize your grandchild’s voice over a phone that has iffy reception, or from an overseas phone call if your grandchild is abroad. To make it even more complicated, scammers will use any information they can find about your grandchild’s life to appear legitimate. If the scam is carried out through email, they may even hack your grandchild’s email account so their missive appears to be coming directly from your grandchild.

If you ever receive a call or an email like the one described above, simply ask the caller about some personal details that a stranger would not be able to scrape off of your grandchild’s social media accounts. Ask about specific family memories or even jokes that will immediately let you know who you’re really dealing with.

If you’ve been scammed
If you’ve gotten a frantic phone call from your grandchild and you believe it to be true, don’t react just yet. You’ll be urged to act quickly, but take a minute to call your grandchild on your own to verify his or her whereabouts. You can also call the grandchild’s parents to ask where they might be at this time. You may be surprised to learn that your grandchild is safe at home!

If you’ve fallen for the scam and you’ve only recognized the ruse after you’ve sent your money, you may still be able to reclaim some or all of your funds by reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Even if you can’t reclaim your lost funds, you’ll be doing your part to help the authorities put those crooks behind bars.

Grandparenting is a wonderful experience. Don’t let scammers abuse your relationship with your grandchild by pulling the wool over your eyes. Stay one step ahead of them by being alert and knowing how to spot these scams. Show them that no one messes with grandma!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by an emergency scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/scammers-create-fake-emergencies-get-your-money

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/most-common-phone-scams

8 Ways To Spot A Home Improvement Scam

feet sticking down through sheetrock ceiling, electrical light box hangingIt’s home improvement season! Contractors of all kinds, from painters to builders, electricians, roofers and more, are hard at work sprucing up homes across the country.

If you’re hiring anyone to make improvements on your home, be alert! Home improvement scams are more common than you may think. And they can be difficult to spot. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), home improvement scams in 2017 cost Americans more than $600,000 in losses. A contractor can con a homeowner in a number of ways, from doing sloppy work that requires more repair down the line to leaving a job unfinished, or even making off with their pay and doing no work at all.

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for 8 ways to spot a home improvement scam:

  1. The contractor insists on being paid up front
    While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total fee up front. This is likely a scammer who is trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.
  2. The contractor refuses to supply references
    Never hire a contractor without speaking to someone who’s used their services in the past. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises homeowners to ask past customers detailed questions about a contractor’s work, including the projected and actual project timeline, as well as final cost. If a contractor is in the middle of another job, ask if you can check out their work yourself. If a contractor refuses to furnish names and contact information of previous clients, it may be best to seek a new option.
  3. There’s negative information about the contractor on the BBB site
    Before hiring any small business you’ve never used, it’s a good idea to check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. Once there, you can read reviews and ratings and see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  4. The contractor demands payment in cash
    The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash leaves no trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.
  5. The contractor will do the work for an insanely cheap price
    Don’t get conned by a contractor who severely underbids all competitors. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you’re offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If you only get evasive answers, look elsewhere.
  6. They show up at your door … uninvited
    The smiling contractor at your door claiming to have recently done work in your neighborhood just happened to notice your home can use some repairs, too. They suggest you hire them to do it for you–all for a great price, of course. Don’t fall for every house call. There’s a small chance you’re looking at a rookie contractor just starting to build a referral base, but it is far more likely that your uninvited visitor is a scammer who will do sloppy work, leave the job half-finished or disappear with your money. If the contractor does seem legit, look them up on the BBB site and ask for references before hiring.
  7. The contractor refuses to put anything in writing
    Never hire anyone to do work on your home without a written contract. The BBB advises homeowners to include as many details as possible in the contract, such as payment terms, a definitive date for the start and completion of the project, warranty information and a clear description of the job.
  8. They try to avoid permits
    A contractor who tries to convince you there’s no need to pull permits is one who wants to avoid the authorities at all costs. You’re likely dealing with an unlicensed worker or who will cut corners wherever possible. The lack of proper permits can also cause you problems down the line when you try to sell your home.

Don’t get ripped off by a scammer! Do your homework well before hiring any contractors this (or any) season. It’s one surefire way to ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a home improvement scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/home-improvement.html

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/the-ultimate-list-of-the-years-worst-scams/

https://www.thespruce.com/common-home-improvement-scams-4163354

All You Need To Know About Smishing Scams

person using smartphone to send text messageText messaging has come under attack as one of the most vulnerable mediums for identity theft and more. Here’s what you need to know about an SMS message-based scam called “smishing.”

How it works
Smishing scams use text messages to establish contact with the intended victim to later access their personal information.

The scam begins with a supposedly urgent text appearing to be from the victim’s financial institution. The text may claim that the victim’s checking account is locked, or that there has been an unauthorized purchase charged to the victim’s account. The scammer will warn that immediate action must be taken.

The victim is then instructed to call a specified number and, upon doing so, will be asked to share their financial information. Once they’ve got their hands on this info, the scammer is free to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or go on a shopping spree on the victim’s dime.

Who are the victims?
Smishing scams primarily target people who do their banking online, but fraudsters will use any cellphone number they can find. If you own a checking account and a cellphone, you are a candidate for a smishing scam.

Recognizing smishing scams
Your credit union will not alert you of a possible fraud or account lockdown via text; we prefer more personal means to help you know it’s us.

Also, the phone number the smishing text instructs you to call is not ours. You can reach us at 734-676-7000. If you’re told to contact us at a different number, it’s not us you’re calling!

You can also spot the smishing scam just by looking at the phone number. The text will often appear to come from a number that is obviously fake.

If you’ve been targeted
If you receive a suspicious-looking text, do not engage the texter! Jot down the scammer’s number and delete the message. Let us know about the smishing attempt, tell all your friends and alert the FTC.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and your accounts have been compromised, alert your credit card companies and be sure to let us know, too.

Protecting yourself
Always use two-factor authentication for banking app and sites.
Use strong and different passwords across your accounts and apps.
Ignore all text messages from unknown numbers.

Don’t let those crooks get their hands on your money!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a smishing scam? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/saltzman/2017/07/03/delete-suspicious-text-messages-on-your-smartphone/439647001/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/07/07/smishing-scam

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/01/23/5-scams-that-target-your-bank-account

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/this-growing-fraud-will-drain-your-bank-account.html