Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California received multiple reports of scammers impersonating BBB in the last month. Consumers report receiving telephone calls from scammers claiming to be from or affiliated with “the Better Business Bureau” in an attempt to receive money or personal information.
On March 13, a consumer in Hayward reported to BBB Scam Tracker that they received a call from someone who “stressed that they were ‘from the Better Business Bureau’ and that [the consumer] had won $850,000 through Publisher’s Clearing House… There was a processing fee… 400 and some odd dollars”. Luckily, the consumer recognized that it was scam.
This scam is a variation of an imposter scam. In 2016, imposter scams were the second most common category of consumer complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the FTC, in an imposter scam, “a scammer pretends to be someone trustworthy… to convince the consumer to send money”.
In an even stranger scam, a consumer in Vacaville reported to BBB on March 17 that they received a call claiming to be from “PC Tech”, saying that BBB ordered the company to repay money they had previously scammed from people. To do this, “PC Tech” needed remote access to the consumer’s computer to get signed authorization and directly deposit money into their bank account. The consumer had previously given remote access to their computer to a scammer, and might have been targeted because of this.
BBB’s mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust, so if you receive a call using BBB’s name, you may be tempted to trust the caller automatically. But it should be a red flag if the caller claims you won a prize or owe money, or if they’re trying to gain access to your personal data. BBB will never actively solicit this information. BBB offers the following advice to help you avoid scams like these:
- You won’t have to pay to receive a prize. If you’re contacted by phone, mail, or email and told that you won a large prize but first have to pay for processing fees or taxes, it’s probably a scam. In 2016, consumers nationwide reported around 2,400 of these sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams to BBB Scam Tracker. Rest assured that BBB will never call you out of the blue claiming you won a prize.
- Never give a cold caller remote access to your computer. Consumers nationwide reported nearly 8,000 tech support scams to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016. In a tech support scam, you receive a call or computer pop-up from the tech support department of a generic-sounding or well-known software company. The scammer alerts you to a problem and accesses your computer remotely, then demands money to fix the problem or installs malware on your computer. Never give remote access to your computer unless it’s to a representative of a trustworthy computer support team that you contacted directly. Learn more about tech support scams at org/techsupportscam.
- Stay in the know. The best away to avoid a scam is to be aware of it. A great way to stay on top of current scams is through BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker. BBB Scam Tracker is an online, crowdsourced tool that shows you a heat map of scams happening across North America. There you can find descriptions of individual scam reports. You can search by keyword, scam type or zip code. No one is immune to the risks posed by scams, so it’s best to be proactive and protect yourself.
If you ever receive an unsolicited call from “BBB”, or from a company claiming to be affiliated with the BBB, verify its legitimacy by contacting BBB directly at (510) 844-2000 or email@example.com. If you’ve been contacted by scammer impersonating BBB, or any fraudster, report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others.