Have A Worry-Free Spring Break With These BBB Tips

Staff Reports

Columbus (March 12, 2018) – Whether you are looking for a good spring break deal, going on an annual holiday trip, or have decided you just need a vacation, BBB warns travelers to plan ahead, avoid scams and travel safely.

Scammers commonly target people looking for great deals online by offering tempting vacation packages at unrealistically low prices. BBB.org is a great resource for finding travel agencies, agents and websites that are reputable and dependable.

Here are some additional tips from BBB to help ensure a worry-free vacation:

Avoid broad online searches. When trying to make reservations or find activities on your trip, avoid entering phrases like ‘best deals’ into whichever search engine you use. Broad search terms can sometimes lead you to websites that look official, but are designed solely to rip people off.

Get trip details in writing. Before making your final payment, get all the details of the trip in writing. This should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels. Also, review and keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site you are using.

Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you additional protection if something should go wrong when booking your trip or while traveling.

Wait to post on social media. We all like to share our vacation adventures with friends and family, but wait until you get back from your trip. Giving too much detail about when you will be away, and your home will be empty, could attract thieves.

Check your home insurance. If your home will be unattended while you are away, make sure you know your responsibilities under your home insurance policy. Some policies do not cover damage if nobody checks on your home for a certain amount of time.

Share a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend. Include the contact information of someone joining you on your trip.

Take a map. People rely heavily on smartphones and GPS. Have a hard copy backup in case of technical difficulties or if you are going through an area with poor cellphone reception.

Check the weather conditions where you will be traveling and pack appropriate supplies and clothing.

Avoid traveling alone. Use the buddy system and stick with your friends.

Use hotel safes to store extra cash and keep any valuables under lock and key.

To find additional traveling resources, tips and businesses you can trust, visit bbbtravelhelp.com!

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

Attorney General DeWine Announces Winners of High School Consumer Video Contest

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today (March 8) announced the winners of the 2017 Take Action Video Contest, which was open to Ohio high school students.

For the contest, high school students were asked to create a 60-second video about one of the following cyber-security topics: privacy on your smartphone, social networking scams, or creating strong passwords.

Attorney General DeWine congratulated the following winners:

First place: Aujolie Baker from the Arts & College Preparatory Academy will receive a $2,500 college scholarship for her video “Internet Treasure.”

Second place: Hailey Phister from Dublin Coffman High School will receive a $1,500 college scholarship for her video “Keep It Safe.”

Third place: Nicholas Kudlapur from Logan High School will receive a $1,000 scholarship for his video “Password Protection.”

“These students found creative, entertaining ways to share information about important consumer protection topics,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We appreciate their hard work and their contributions to consumer education. We also thank all the students and advisors who participated in this contest.”

In the 2017 Take Action Contest, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received more than 120 contest entries from nearly 200 students throughout the state.

In addition to recognizing the first-, second-, and third-place winners, Attorney General DeWine also recognized the following finalists of the 2017 Take Action Video Contest:

Margaret Zimmer, Mayfield High School

Kiley Collum, Cedarville High School

Mikelah Davie, Focus Learning Academy Southeast

Nathan Gibson and Rohith Gattu, Sycamore High School

Matthew Arehart, Medina County Career Center

Caitlyn Conley, Massillon Washington High School

Ireland Moor, Bryan High School

Today’s announcement coincides with National Consumer Protection Week, March 4 to 10, 2018, which promotes consumer education.

Consumers who want to learn about consumer protection topics should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

BBB Scam Spotlight: February 2018

Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

In February, Central Ohio consumers reported over $29,000 in attempted dollars stolen.

BBB analyzed 74 Scam Tracker reports from February 2018 to shed a spotlight on four scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

1. Phone Scams: The top means of scam contact this past month was through telephone calls. BBB would like to offer the following tips to help consumers combat scam calls:

Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. If the caller is legitimate, they will leave a voicemail. Even if a scammer chooses to leave a message, you can take time to determine if it is worth pursuing instead of being put on the spot.

Be wary of recorded messages telling you to press a number to be removed from the call list. Since pressing a button confirms that you have a working number, it is best to hang up.

Some scammers may call and impersonate trustworthy businesses, charities or even government agencies. The best way to avoid these types of scams is by hanging up, looking up the organization’s phone number and calling back to directly speak to a representative.

Visit DoNotCall.gov and join the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ to help lessen the number of calls you receive. Joining the registry will not completely stop scammers, but you should receive fewer calls.

Nomorobo.com offers an app for both landlines and cell phones to block any phone call that comes in as an automated or machine-made call.

2. IRS Scam: A Grove City, Ohio woman received a call instructing her to go to Best Buy in Grove City, buy a gift card and tell them the security number off the back as payment for tax fraud from 2016. The caller told her not to tell anyone, and gave her the name Officer Mark Williams and the officer number 198020. A second person came on the phone and gave her the officer number IRM 24101. They told her she owed $6,000, and should pay them $1,000 a day. If she didn’t comply, they threatened to send an officer to her home to arrest her.

She received 19 calls from the same number while at Best Buy, and was told to keep everything confidential. Fortunately, she realized it was a scam and did not lose any money.

IRS scams will begin with someone pressuring you to act quickly. If the IRS needs to contact you, they will do so by mail first, not phone or email. Beware of anyone claiming to be a government official, but asking for payment in nontraditional ways like gift cards, prepaid debit card or wire transfer – this is a red flag. Click here for more information on how to tell if the IRS is really calling or if you are talking to a scammer.

3. Tech Support Scam: A man from Blue Rock, Ohio reported losing $100.00 to a scam involving his Roku. He found a number online he believed he needed to call to activate his Roku, leading him to a scam company called Best Tech Support. The scammers told him he had to send $100.00. He sent Best Tech Support his debit card number, and did not get his money back.

Protect yourself from tech support scams:

Don’t ever give a stranger remote access to your machine: Granting someone remote access to your computer permits them to install malware and access your files.

Be wary of anyone calling you and claiming to be from a big-name tech company. Most big tech company employees will not call customers who have not asked to be called.

Don’t believe Caller ID: Victims report falling for this scam because the calls appear to come from Apple Support. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so don’t believe what you see on your phone.

Think twice when you see a pop-up notification on your computer that isn’t from a program you installed. Scammers make tech support scam pop-ups that look like they’re coming from your computer, but they are actually ads displaying in your internet browser.

4. Employment Scam: A Columbus, Ohio woman’s daughter almost lost $2,450 to a “secret shopper” employment scam. The daughter had posted her resume online at careerbuilder.com and indeed.com. She received a text message offering her a position, then got a letter and check through priority mail from Kinesis, signed by an Alex Baker. The letter instructed her to go to Walmart, deposit the $2,450 check, wire some money back and keep an extra $200 to buy items.

According to Scam Tracker, consumers in the Midwest are most likely to fall prey to employment schemes.

It’s simple for scammers to create fake company websites, emails and job applications. Many work-from-home or mystery shopper schemes sound too good to be true and promise a large reward for minimal work. Be wary of any business that only wants to interview you over the phone or asks you to wire money for any fees or supplies.

BBB has additional tips for check over-payment scams.

Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.


Staff Reports