Better Business Bureau warns of disaster help scams

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Seeing video of the suffering in Texas after Harvey, it's natural to want to help. Unfortunately, scammers are already taking advantage of that. (WLS)

Seeing video of the suffering in Texas after Harvey, it's natural to want to help. Unfortunately, scammers are already taking advantage of that.

Before sending any money, the Better Business Bureau has some advice. President and CEO Steve Bernas joined ABC7 Eyewitness News This Morning to explain how to find out if you're donating to a reputable source.

He also shared a warning about cyber security as students return to school.

PRESS RELEASE

BBB Warns Donors to Not Throw Caution to the Wind in Sending Assistance to Texas Victims of Hurricane Harvey

BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is warning consumers that emergency responders are not the only ones closely tracking the storms in Texas, as scammers often see emergencies as a prime opportunity.

Officials in Houston have issued a public plea for help which translates to sirens for scammers. Reports are already coming in about storm scams and fake 800 numbers to make donations. BBB urges all potential donors to do a little homework and seek out great charities like BBB Accredited Red Cross and others at give.org.

Chicago and Northern Illinois President and CEO Steve J. Bernas says "As people try to assist storm victims and their families, there will be dishonest people creating fake donation campaigns to exploit the situation and try to scam those wanting to help. While there may be a sense of urgency, we encourage people to carefully consider who exactly they are giving to, making sure they are actually providing relief to those in need.

BBB's wise giving tips can be found at go.bbb.org/hurricaneharvey.

For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry, and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses and charities, visit www.bbb.org.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter ,Instagram and LinkedIn.

Remember to always report scammers. If you've been cheated, report the scam to authorities and BBB Scam Tracker to warn others.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Consumers and businesses can search business reviews and ratings on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

BBB Warns Students About Avoiding the Hard Lessons of Back-to-School Scams

Going back to school can be a hectic time bringing along excitement and opportunities for both students and scammers alike. That's why BBB is reminding students of all ages to arm themselves against back-to-school schemes.

In 2016, students nationwide reported more than 2,300 scams to BBB Scam Tracker. In Illinois, those students lost over $50,000 to scams. The National Retail Federation reports this year back-to-school shopping will account for over $83 billion in sales. Top scams targeting students include online purchases, government grants, employment, debt collection, tech support and credit card spoofs.

Steve Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois says, "All of these scams have one thing in common: cybersecurity. Fraudsters are using any means necessary to steal vital data and personal information via the internet from vulnerable consumers."

He adds, "And the busyness of the new school year is the perfect time to strike the most vulnerable younger demographics out there."

BBB offers the following tips to avoid falling for these scams:

Do not over-share information on social media: Fraudsters mine social media posts for information that could help them get past account security questions.

Beware of e-mail or pop up coupons: What looks like a legitimate big brand coupon may be linking to big trouble and a fake site designed to steal money or identification.

Don't give away your SSN unless it's absolutely necessary: If you are prompted to do so, ask if there's an alternative way to identify yourself - if you must share, make sure you trust the institution to whom you are providing your information.

Protect yourself with strong passwords and PINs: Make sure all of your devices are protected by a password and be careful using public Wi-Fi as you may be exposing yourself to scammers.

Be wary of unsolicited tech support: If you receive an unsolicited call or pop-up message on any of your devices from Microsoft or Apple asking for "remote access," it's likely a scam - once given access, they can install malware on your computer and steal personal information.

Proceed with caution when downloading free apps or software: Many websites will offer free applications or downloads for your laptop or devices - make sure you are downloading only from the Apple store or another reputable source as these downloads can open you up to malware.

Stay on top of your credit: Checking your credit report is one of the best ways to catch instances of identity theft - you can check your credit report once per year with a BBB Accredited credit reporting agency.

Check out our Live Better Newsletter article for additional tips on how to avoid scams that target specifically college students. For more information on cyber safety visit https://www.bbb.org/council/for-businesses/cybersecurity/.

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Remember to always report scammers. If you've been cheated, report the scam to authorities and BBB Scam Tracker to warn others.

Search our databases anytime at no cost to find trustworthy businesses and valuable consumer information. Visit http://ask.bbb.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter ,Instagram and LinkedIn.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Consumers and businesses can search business reviews and ratings on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

BBB Warns of Top Scams Targeting Seniors Including a Grandparents "Back to School Scam"

With the excitement of the solar eclipse overshadowing much of the world, this week also features National Senior Citizens Day. However, the urgency of scams targeting seniors should not be missed. In 2016, about 40% of individuals who provided their age when reporting to Scam Tracker were over the age of 55.

Top 3 most risky scam types for consumers age 55-64:

Home Improvement

Travel/Vacations
Fake Check/Money Order

Top 3 most risky scam types for consumers age 65 +:

Family/Friend Emergency
Sweepstake/Lottery/Prizes
Travel/Vacations

Steve Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois says, "As kids head back to school and off to college, this is the perfect time for scammers to use the family/friend emergency scam. Scammers will often target seniors via phone telling them that their child or grandchild is in financial trouble and needs money wired to them immediately."

He adds, "If you have a child or grandchild who has just gone away to college, be leery of any correspondence you receive that is not directly from them. For most people, family is their biggest vulnerability, and scammers love to take advantage of this."

BBB offers the following tips to help seniors avoid scams:

Screen your phone calls. Only answer or return calls from people you know.
Never give out account numbers or other private information to a stranger on the phone.
Always give yourself time to verify information before taking any action.
Never click on links in unsolicited emails or texts.

For additional tips on avoiding scams that target seniors check out our Live Better Newsletter at https://www.bbb.org/chicago/live-better/family-fun/protecting-grandma-and-grandpa-from-scams/.

Remember to always report scammers. If you've been cheated, report the scam to authorities and BBB Scam Tracker to warn others.

Search our databases anytime at no cost to find trustworthy businesses and valuable consumer information. Visit http://ask.bbb.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter ,Instagram and LinkedIn.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. Consumers and businesses can search business reviews and ratings on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

Related Topics:
better business bureaudisasterscamscharitydonationsChicagoTexasLoop

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