Better Business Bureau tips to avoid scams, data breaches

The Better Business Bureau's Steve Bernas details multiple scams and data breaches currently in the news.

Better Business Bureau Warns Consumers: "Diploma Mills" Can Damage Your Future

Having a high school diploma is essential if your plans include entering college, the military or the workforce. However, promises of getting that diploma with ease are being offered by fake online schools which have been identified as "diploma mills". The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to look for "red flags" when they are online looking for schools.

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission a Federal Court Judge in Florida issued a temporary restraining order against two organizations that the FTC has identified as "diploma mills." According to the FTC over the past several years these fake schools have defrauded individuals out of more than $11 million.

Individuals are told you can graduate and earn an "official" diploma by completing their multiple choice test and paying $200-300. These schools exist solely to make money, not to provide and education.

"There are legitimate online schools out there," says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "However, in order to find these schools and not get scammed, be sure to look up the program on the BBB website."

Bernas, noted, "these schools often claim to be "accredited" however their accreditation comes from other fraudulent organizations they have set-up.

Here are ways to spot a "diploma mill":

  • If you see diplomas that are awarded based on "life experience" and require very little or no work.

  • The website guarantees you will receive a diploma wthin a few days, weeks or months.

  • Addresses are for administration buildings that include P.O. boxes or suite numbers.

  • Prices are stated per diploma instead of per credit hour.

  • For more tips, visit, like BBB on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

    Tech Support Scam Continues To Claim Victims, Warns The Better Business Bureau

    The Microsoft tech support telephone scam was brought to the attention of the Better Business Bureau over a year ago. Since that time phone complaints have hit peaks and valleys. Currently, the BBB is experiencing a new peak in the number of calls regarding this scam.

    Most callers to the BBB report receiving calls from individuals with very thick accents who tell them Microsoft has been notified that there are errors or viruses on their computers that need to be removed. Not only are consumers complaining about the scam calls, but also the volume of voicemails being left on their phones. Some report as many as five or six calls per day.

    "This scam is international in scope," says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "The Federal Trade Commission reports that scammers have tricked tens of thousands of computer users globally."

    With the exception of a few variations, the calls are the same. The scammer instructs the targeted victim to download a program that would allow remote access to their computer. Once access is gained, the scammer directs the computer owner to the systems event log. The event log shows common errors and warnings which are typical for most computers, but are enough to convince the owner there is a problem.

    The scammer then offers to fix the problems for a fee which can range from approximately $200 - 400.

    Who becomes a victim? According to Microsoft, "cybercriminals often use publically available telephone directories to find their victims." With the information found there and often guessing the type of operating system the computer runs, the criminals are able to gain their victims trust.

    Additionally, notes Bernas "This scam targets everyone, but senior citizens often become victims more readily because they are home to answer the phone."

    That was the case with Judith O'Day, a senior citizen in Durand, IL. She took the call and says "because I had received alerts on my computer, I thought what they were telling me was true." She says "They convinced me to buy the "Silver Plan" a lifetime anti-virus program for $177.78." After talking with her credit card company she found that she was lucky and had not lost any money even though she had provided her date of birth and credit card number.

    How should you protect yourself if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft:

  • Never provide personal or credit card information to a stranger.

  • Even though the caller claims to be from Microsoft, do not purchase any software or services.

  • If there is a fee associated with the service or subscription, simply hang up the phone.

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless it is a support team with whom you are a customer and can confirm that they are legitimate.

  • Take the callers information down and report it to local law enforcement officials and the Federal Trade Commission.

  • For more tips, visit, like BBB on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

    Better Business Bureau of Chicago & Northern Illinois, Inc.
    330 N. Wabash Ave - Suite 3120
    Chicago, IL 60611