Beware Car-Wrap Scams!

Two auto-body techs apply a vinyl wrap to a car fenderScammers never stop dreaming up new ways to con you out of your money-and reinventing old tricks that work. The fake-check scam is a tried-and-true scheme with dozens of variations. One such variation, the car-wrap scam, has recently become more widespread and successful.

Here’s all you need to know about the car-wrap scam and how you can protect yourself from becoming the next victim.

In this scam, well-known “brands” post ads or send mass emails promising consumers generous compensation for allowing the company to use their car as advertising space. The consumer simply needs to have their vehicle shrink-wrapped with an ad for the company to get paid, usually, around $500 a week.

Unfortunately, the ad is bogus and does not really represent the promoted company. When the victim is awarded their first “paycheck,” it will be made out for an amount that’s far larger than what was promised. Alternatively, the victim will be supplied with the funds to pay the car-wrapper; only the amount on the check is a lot larger than necessary. In both scenarios, the victim will be instructed to cash the check and mail back the surplus to the sender. You can probably guess the ending: The check will not clear and the victim will never see that money again.

Like every successful scam, this one tries to bait its victims with the promise of easy money. Luckily, there are loads of red flags to alert you to the fact that you’re looking at a scam.

First, the ad will be written poorly and riddled with typos and spelling errors.
Here is the actual text used in one of these scams:

Bull light are currently seeking to employ car owners world wide. You will need to carry this promotional advert on the exterior of your car and you will be compensated with $500 per week which is essentially a “rental” payment for letting our company use the space of your car, no application fees required from you. We would be paying you by check and would want you to get back to us with your Name: Street Address: City: and cell phone State: Zip code: to send you the check and also send your Age: Current Occupation: Make of car/ year:. We will contact you immediately we receive this information Note: We take full responsibility for placing and remove decal on your car and it will not resort to any damage. Thanks.

A brief look at the ad should clue you in to its shady intent. Legitimate brands know their spelling and grammar.

Another clue is the ridiculously high compensation being offered for essentially renting out your vehicle for an alleged company to use as advertising space. You know what they say about things that are too good to be true …

Also, if the offer actually was legitimate, the company would likely be bombarded with hopeful applicants instead of sending out mass emails begging people to consider this lucrative, no-sweat opportunity.

If you fall for the scam and sign up to have your car shrink-wrapped, you can still pull out when you get your first paycheck or funding to be used for the car wrap. Legitimate companies do not mistakenly “overpay” you and then ask you to refund the change.

“If you get a message urging you to deposit a check and wire money back, it’s a scam,” says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). “Every time. No matter the story.”

If you receive a check that matches this description, rip it up and cut off all contact with the sender.

It’s equally important to note that many of these car-wrap scams are being pulled off in the name of well-known beverage companies like Monster Energy, Pepsi, Bud Light and Red Bull. Most of these companies have confirmed that they do not run any programs like the one promoted in the scam.

If you come across a car-wrap offer that sounds legitimate, a quick online search of the company that’s allegedly associated with the job can help you determine whether it is truly authentic. If it turns out to be a scam, be sure to warn your friends and to file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov.

Always be on the alert for possible scams and keep yourself informed of the latest schemes. A little education and a lot of common sense can go a long way toward keeping you safe from scams.

Your Turn:
Have you spotted a car-wrap scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
consumer.ftc.gov
latimes.com
consumeraffairs.com

Don’t Get Scammed At The Gym!

Personal trainer in a gym reviews the exercise & diet with her clientAs soon as the calendar hits Jan. 2, the gyms are packed with people who are eager to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re one of the thousands of newbies making your way to fitness centers this month, beware of these five subtle scams that can end up thinning your wallet more than your physique.

The free trial
Free trials at fitness centers are super-popular right after the holidays. It sounds like a no-brainer: no money, and you get to try out the gym for free! Unfortunately, though, free trials can ultimately end up costing you a pretty penny. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns against sharing your credit card information with a gym that’s offering a free trial because many will start automatically charging you a monthly fee unless you remember to cancel your “membership” by a certain timeframe. You may even find yourself committed to a full year!

The fix: Read the fine print carefully on any free trial offer. If possible, only take advantage of a free trial offered without asking for any financial information.

The no-cancellation policy
Gyms depend on strong membership numbers. This can sometimes translate into high-pressure sales tactics-or worse. Lots of fitness centers will not let you out of a contract until a full year is up, no matter what. You’ll be stuck paying that membership all year even if you find the gym is not the right fit for you, if you develop a medical condition that makes use of the gym impossible or you end up moving out of town.

The fix: Before signing up for a gym membership, ask about their cancellation policy. If it’s too rigid, look for another gym.

“Certified” personal trainers
Another way gyms get you is by charging you extra for the service of an on-staff personal trainer. The catch? Lots of these “trainers” have not completed their certification process, or may even be completely untrained! This means you’re essentially paying through the roof to have a glorified coach help you work out. You can also end up getting injured if the trainer puts you through a workout that is overly strenuous for your personal capacity.

The fix: Before signing up to work with a personal trainer, ask to see their certification. Look for NSCA, ACSM, NASM and ACE.

No health-history form
In our litigation-happy society, every business and service provider is deathly afraid of being sued. Gyms are no exception. To help them avoid getting dragged to court for injuries incurred while using their machines, many fitness centers have stopped making new members fill out a health-history form and/or a PAR-Q-a standard questionnaire for exercise readiness. This way, instead of reviewing members’ health histories and lifestyle details so they can direct them toward appropriate machines and workouts, gyms have effectively absolved themselves from exercise-related injuries.

The fix: Be wary of signing up at gyms that don’t ask any questions about your medical history or personal lifestyle.

Equipment-maintenance fees
Many fitness centers have started charging members a quarterly or monthly equipment-maintenance fee on top of their membership dues. This practice begs the question: If you’re paying a fee for the upkeep of the exercise equipment, why are you also paying a membership fee?

The fix: Ask about any additional fees before signing up for a gym membership.

Get fit without the gym
If you’re looking to shed some pounds and build muscles this year, you don’t need a gym. You can download some great workout tutorials online, invite some friends over and exercise at home! There are also lots of exercises you can do without any expensive equipment, like squats, lunges, T-handle swings, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, stretches and more. For an aerobics workout, you can bundle up and go for a walk, sprint or jog outdoors instead of running nowhere on a treadmill in a noisy gym. You can get fit without paying a small fortune!

If you need the commitment to working out that a gym membership can give you, go for it, but proceed with caution. Avoid getting scammed at the gym by looking out for the less-than-savory business practices, and by doing extensive research on any fitness center you might want to join.

Best of luck on your fitness quest in 2020 from all of us here at Advantage One Credit Union!

Your Turn:
Have you had an unsatisfactory business relationship with a fitness center? Share it with us in the comments.

Learn More:
joe-cannon.com
nattyornot.com
witn.com

Don’t Get Scammed By Santa!

Close-up of Santa's face and glove as he peeks into the mailbox that you are in.Someone’s been naughty this year-and we’re not talking about you! Those awful scammers don’t take time out for the holidays, and if you don’t know what to expect you can be their next victim.

One of the oldest holiday scams, which is even more prevalent in the age of the internet, is the letter-from-Santa scam. Here’s all you need to know about this Christmas-themed scheme.

How it plays out
In this ruse, scammers set up bogus websites where parents can order legitimate-looking letters from Santa for their children. The cost is less than $30. All they need to do is share some details about their child along with their credit card information, and the letter is supposedly as good as mailed.

Except that it’s not. Unfortunately, anyone who follows the instructions detailed on the site has just fallen prey to a scam. They’ll never see that promised letter, or the money they paid for the privilege of receiving a note from Santa. Worse, the ring of scammers now has the children’s information and their parent’s credit card details.

This set of circumstances can have all sorts of unhappy endings, from identity theft to emptied accounts. Sometimes, the scammers will go after the child’s credit, which will likely go unchecked for years. When the children are grown and try to open a credit card or take out a loan, they may find that their credit score has been destroyed by these scammers over the years, all without their knowledge.

Some sites will even offer to send the letter at no cost. All you need to do is share some details about your child, like their full legal name, date of birth and home address. Of course, this is also the work of scammers looking to steal your child’s identity.

How can I tell it’s a scam?
There are legitimate websites where you can order a letter from Santa for your child at no risk of identity theft or a ruined credit history. But how can you weed out the phony sites from the authentic services?

We’ve made it simple. Look for the following red flags, which should alert you to the fact that a site is created by scammers:

  • The fraudster reaches out to you repeatedly
    Promotional emails and ads are one thing; targeted marketing that is so aggressive it borders on harassment is another thing entirely. If a company doesn’t stop sending you emails or alerts about its services, you may be dealing with a scam.
  • The site is not secure
    As always, check for the lock icon and the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ in the URL; both indicate a site’s security. Also, look for security badges on the bottom of the webpage and click on them to see if they’re actual links to the security company they allegedly represent. Scammers often post static images of well-known security badges, which do fool people into thinking the site is safe.
  • You need to answer too many questions
    Yes, a service sending your child a letter from Santa will need to know your child’s name and mailing address. They may even ask your child’s age so they can send an age-appropriate letter. But there’s no need for them to be privy to your child’s exact date of birth, and certainly not their Social Security number. If the questions in an online form are making you uncomfortable, opt out.
  • You can’t reach a representative by phone
    Most websites will have the company’s toll-free contact number on the site’s homepage. If you suspect fraud, try the number. If the company is bogus, the number will likely be a fake.
  • You can’t find any positive reviews about the company online
    An online search on a legitimate service should bring up basic information and some positive reviews about the service. If a search turns up empty, and of course, if it turns up any reports of past scams, the “company” is run by crooks.

If you’ve recognized a company as a scam, be sure not to click on any links that are embedded in their emails. Flag their emails as spam, and delete every email, message and alert it sends you.

You can still send your child a letter from Santa. Try a legitimate site like Portable North Pole or or better yet, create and send one yourself!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a letter-from-Santa scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

Learn More:
consumeraffairs.com
news.yahoo.com
aarp.org

Beware The Apple Support Scam!

Apple logoIf you have an iPhone, iPad or a Macbook, you need to know about this recent, hard-to-spot scam. Hackers are impersonating Apple support in an effort to scrape sensitive information from Apple users’ devices. These scams can be difficult to identify and are often successful.

Here’s all you need to know about the latest phishing scam and how to keep yourself safe.

How does this scam play out?
In the Apple support scam, hackers are spoofing Apple’s support number and calling iPhone users to offer them technical support. The scammer will tell the victim they’re calling about a data breach that needs immediate attention. They’ll claim the victim’s Apple iCloud account is compromised, hacked or has been showing suspicious activity. To fix the problem, they’ll say they need access to the victim’s device. They’ll go on to ask for the Apple user’s login credentials, passwords and other sensitive data. Their ultimate goal is to gain access to the victim’s iCloud account.

Sometimes, the scam takes the form of an automated message sent to the victim announcing that evidence of suspicious activity has been found in their iCloud account. The victim is instructed to call a specific number to reach “Apple Support.” Once victims makes that phone call, they’ll be greeted by a legitimate-sounding welcome message complete with estimated wait times, as if they’d actually reached the real Apple Support. They may even be directed to press the number one to reach a support adviser or supervisor. Of course, once they’re connected to a “representative,” they’ll be speaking to a scammer, who is waiting to ask for their iCloud account credentials and login information.

One of the reasons this scam often works is because of the sophisticated way it’s executed. The scammers use high-level spoofing technology to make it appear as if Apple Support is actually calling the victim. Apple’s iconic logo even appears on the victim’s phone as the call comes in. Unless the victim is aware of this ruse and knows to be on the lookout for it, it’s difficult to determine this call is a scam.

How do I know the caller isn’t really an Apple representative?
In high-tech scams like this one, it can be challenging for targeted victims to separate fact from fiction. If you receive a call like the one described above, and you’re unsure if the caller is a legitimate Apple representative, it’s fairly simple to find out the truth. As soon as the caller starts asking for your Apple ID password, iCloud credentials or verification codes to provide you with support, you’ll know you’re talking to a scammer. Apple has made it clear that its reps will never ask for any of this information over the phone.

What is Apple saying about this scam?
The Apple Support Twitter feed is full of tweets from iPhone users asking if these calls are legitimate. Apple provides these users with a link to a helpful article about avoiding phishing scams. The tech giant has also warned users to verify a caller’s identity before providing any personal information over the phone. Unfortunately, though, this step can be difficult to carry out in real life when the caller ID makes it appear as if the scammer is calling directly from Apple Support.

Perhaps the best advice the company gives for avoiding this scam is, “If you get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Apple, hang up and contact us directly.” If you follow this advice, you’ll never run the risk of sharing your personal information with an alleged Apple Support representative who is really a scammer.
Apple also advises iPhone users to activate two-factor authentication as an added layer of protection for their accounts.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to hack the personal information of unsuspecting victims. Always be on the alert for scams like this one and never share sensitive information over the phone. Stay safe!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by the Apple Support scam? Tell us how you recognized the scam in the comments.

Learn More:
forbes.com
fox29.com
support.apple.com

6 Ways To Spot A Payday Loan Scam

glowing green neon sign over black background that spells out "pay day loans"Payday loan scams may seem like old news, but they’re more common than ever. In fact, in 2018, the FTC paid a total of $505 million to more than one million victims of payday loan scams.

In this scam, a caller claiming to represent a collection agency who is acting on behalf of a loan company tells victims they must pay their outstanding balance on a payday loan. They’ll ask victims to confirm identifying details, such as their date of birth or even their Social Security number. They claim they need it as proof that they’ve seen the victim’s loan application and actually do represent the company. Unfortunately, the caller is actually a scammer trying to rip off victims or steal their identity.

In many payday loan scams, victims may have applied for a payday loan but not yet completed the application, or they may have submitted the application but not yet received the funds. In these scenarios, the victim has unknowingly applied for a loan with an illegitimate company which proceeds to sell the victim’s information to a third party. This way, the caller can appear to be an authentic loan collector because they know lots of information about the victim.

If you’ve applied for a payday loan, be on the lookout for these six red flags, any of which should alert you to the fact that you’re being scammed:

1. You’ve never received a payday loan
While these scams usually target people who have filled out an application for a payday loan, fraudsters often go after victims who haven’t completed one or who have done so but have not yet been granted the loan. Obviously, you can’t be late paying back a loan you never received.

If you haven’t completed your application or you haven’t yet received an answer from the loan company you applied to, you’re talking to a scammer.

2. The caller demands you pay under threat of arrest
Scammers often dishonestly align themselves with law enforcement agencies to coerce victims into cooperating. A legitimate loan company will never threaten you with immediate arrest.

3. The caller refuses to divulge the name of his collection agency.
If the caller actually represents a collection agency, they should have no problem identifying this agency by name. If they refuse to do so, you may be looking at a scam.

4. You can’t find any information about the agency the caller allegedly represents.
The caller is sometimes willing to name the agency, but the company is completely bogus. If you’re suspicious about the call, do a quick Google search to see what the internet has to say about this company. If you can’t find any proof of the company’s existence, such as a web page, phone number or physical address; or the search turns up evidence of previous scams, hang up.

5. You have not received a validation notice in the mail.
By law, anyone representing a collection agency and attempting to collect on an outstanding debt must send a validation letter to the debtor. This letter will inform the borrower that they can dispute the debt within 30 days. It will also detail the amount of money owed and the party to whom it must be paid.
If you have not received any such letter in the mail before the alleged debt collector calls, you’re probably looking at a scam.

6. The caller only accepts immediate payment over the phone.
If the caller was reaching out to you on behalf of a legitimate collections agency, they’d be happy to work out a payment plan with you, and provide you with an address to which you can mail your payments. When a “collector” insists that you pay in full over the phone and refuses to furnish an address to which you can mail your payments, you’re likely talking to a scammer who is only interested in getting your financial information and your money.

If you find yourself struggling to survive financially between paychecks, call, click or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today. We’ll be happy to help you learn how to keep your finances it optimum health.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a payday loan scam or a similar con? Share your experience with us in the comments.

Learn More:
consumer.ftc.gov
lendedu.com
scam-detector.com
avvo.com

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