BBB Scam Spotlight: March 2017


Staff Report



Columbus (April 10, 2017) – 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 March, consumers reported losing a total of $53,232.

BBB analyzed 78 Scam Tracker reports from March 2017 to shed a spotlight on four scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

Can You Hear Me?: 18 different consumers reported getting calls asking “Can You Hear Me?” or other questions attempting to get a “yes” answer. Once the consumer says yes, their affirmative may be recorded and used at a later time to say they agreed to a payment or a product. Fortunately, none of the consumers lost any money.

BBB recommends screening your calls and only answering numbers you recognize. If the call is important, there will be a voicemail. If you receive any calls asking “Can you hear me?” or any other questions that seem to be fishing for a yes, hang up immediately.

Publisher’s Clearinghouse Imposter Scam: A 64 year-old Columbus, Ohio woman reported losing $50,000 to a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Imposter scam. She received a call claiming she had won the “Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes”, but the caller asked her to pay various fees including storage fees, bank holding fees and IRS fees. She took out cash advances on her credit cards to pay these fees, but has lost the money. BBB has called and emailed her for more information.

BBB urges any consumer who receives letters claiming to be from Publisher’s Clearinghouse to call Publisher’s Clearinghouse directly to confirm that the letter is real. It is also helpful to know the contest rules. Winning entrants will be contacted by Publisher’s Clearinghouse and asked to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility form within 30 days of being chosen as the winner or else another entrant will be accepted. Furthermore, Publisher’s Clearinghouse will never send out winning notices through email or over the phone, but instead will notify winners by mail or in person.

Finally, be wary of any requests for money after being notified that you’ve won, especially when Publisher’s Clearinghouse says “winning is always free”.

Tech Support Scam: A 60 year old Columbus, Ohio man recently reported that he lost $1,500 to a tech support scam in the fall of 2015. He received a telephone call from a man claiming he was with Barewire, a tech support company. The caller said Barewire would like to give him $200 for being a loyal customer, and to login to his bank account on his computer so they could pay him. After giving the caller information, the scammer took over his computer and told him they would take all the money out of his bank account if he did not wire $1,500 to China.

BBB wants consumers to beware of the following tech support scam red flags:

  • You receive a call from someone claiming to work for Microsoft or another prominent company. Most big tech company’s employees will not call customers who haven’t asked to be called and will never reach out to you if you don’t request it first. This is true for almost all other big tech companies, as well.
  • You see a pop-up notification on your computer, but it’s not from a program you installed. Scammers make tech support scam pop-ups look like they’re coming from your computer, but they’re actually ads that are displaying in your internet browser. Don’t click on pop-ups that aren’t system alerts from your machine.
  • You’re offered a “free security scan,” or a pop-up says a free security scan already has found a virus on your machine. Many antivirus software providers offer free trials of their software, programs cannot scan your computer before you’ve installed them. If you haven’t installed the security software, any claims about that software scanning your computer are a scam.
  • They want you to give them access to your computer. Remote access programs make it possible for people to “take over” computers that are far away from them in order to help fix them. However, just like you wouldn’t physically hand your machine to someone you don’t know and trust, you shouldn’t give access to your computer to someone you don’t know or didn’t hire.

Spyware Scam: A Columbus, Ohio senior citizen reported that a flash message popped up on her computer saying it was full of Zeus malware and needed to be cleaned. A toll free number appeared on the screen to clean the malware, and when she called it, gave the scammers access to her computer. She ended up paying them $432 for a “contract” that was not legitimate.

To avoid malware, BBB encourages consumers to be sure that their machines have updated protection. Be wary of opening any email attachments, even if they seem to be coming from someone that you know. Also be aware of pop-ups claiming that you have a virus. It is always better to be safe and bring the laptop to a tech specialist instead of calling someone you don’t know. Finally, treat phones and tablets like your desktop or laptop computers. Make sure they are protected as well, and only download apps from the official Apple Store or Google Play Store. Malware often masquerades as fake apps.

Spring is Here, but Local Custom-Design Company Has Yet to Deliver Holiday Orders

(April 11, 2017) – BBB is warning consumers about a Chillicothe, Ohio company who has yet to deliver holiday orders from consumers in twelve states and Ontario, Canada. TwoLive Customs, a business specializing in custom-designed shoes, is located in Chillicothe, and currently has an F rating with BBB.

Since December 2016, BBB has received 30 complaints against TwoLive Customs for reasons including non-delivery of merchandise, a failure to offer a refund and no response to repeated requests for assistance. BBB estimates the consumer losses to be $4,000.00.

Kip Morse, BBB President and CEO, said BBB has been trying to work with TwoLive Customs since late December. “It’s our understanding that the owner is young, and hand-paints each shoe,” he said. “He hasn’t been able to keep up with orders and has been unable or unwilling to issue refunds in a timely manner.”

Customers report they bought the custom-designed shoes from TwoLive’s website, with the company promising delivery in a couple of weeks. When the customers had not received their items by the promised dates, they attempted to contact the company by phone or email with no success. Most customers wanted the shoes for Christmas presents. BBB contacted TwoLive in January citing a pattern of complaints.

The terms on TwoLive Custom’s website read: Returns/Refunds/Cancellations are not accepted. However, according to the Ohio Consumers Sales Act, it’s a deceptive act for a supplier to accept money from a consumer for goods and then permit eight weeks to lapse without delivering the order, refunding the money or furnishing similar goods of equal or greater value, if the consumer agrees.

Clothing retailers were BBB’s 7th most complained about industry in 2016.

When buying merchandise online, BBB offers the following tips:

  • Research the business carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org.
  • Find trusted, varying reviews and references to help make your decision.
  • Read all terms and conditions carefully before completing a purchase. Make sure to read and understand all warranty information and refund policies and know your options in case you receive an item that was not as advertised.
  • Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment.

About BBB

Since 1912, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB serving Central Ohio was founded in 1921, and serving 21 counties in Ohio, is one of 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Attorney General DeWine Announces New Consumer Claim Deadline for $35 Million Provigil Settlement Funds

Claims Must Be Filed by Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today (April 11) announced that consumers now have until June 25 to seek a portion of a $35 million multistate settlement fund for consumers who paid for the wakefulness drug Provigil or its generic counterpart modafinil from June 24, 2006 to March 31, 2012.

An estimated $1.57 million is available for Ohio consumers.

The funds are available as part of a multistate settlement announced by Attorney General DeWine and other state attorneys general in August 2016. The deadline to file claims originally was April 13, but the states sought an extension, which the court granted this week.

“We want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for settlement money has the opportunity to file a claim,” Attorney General DeWine said. “This is funding that otherwise wouldn’t be available to consumers, and we encourage people to look into it.”

Provigil, which includes the active ingredient modafinil, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to improve wakefulness in adult patients with excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, and shift work disorder.

The settlement, reached with biopharmaceutical company Cephalon and its affiliated companies, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, and Barr Laboratories, resolved allegations that the companies engaged in anticompetitive conduct to delay generic versions of Provigil from entering the market for several years. The settlement included $35 million to compensate eligible consumers who may have been harmed by the alleged conduct.

Eligible consumers are those who reside in Ohio, the District of Columbia, or any state other than California and Louisiana and who paid for brand-name Provigil or generic modafinil from June 24, 2006 to March 31, 2012.

For more information or to obtain a claim form, visit www.StateAGProvigilSettlement.com or call 1-877-236-1413.

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Staff Report

For more information on finding businesses you can trust, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

For more information on finding businesses you can trust, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.