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Better Business Bureau: Overpayment Scams Target Businesses

July 30, 2011 at 2:30 a.m.


By Alan Bligh

Another overpayment counterfeit check scam almost victimized an area Coastal Bend catering service.

The business received a foreign email requesting a quote on a large amount of food. The victim quoted this supposed customer a little more than $2,700.

The schemer responded by stating that he would send a cashier's check but that the check would be for $1,600 more than the quote. The schemer proceeded to inform the victim that he wanted the victim to cash the forthcoming $4,300 check and wire that extra $1,600 to a delivery company that would pick up the food.

The reason the schemer gave for this was extremely illogical. Of course, the check the schemer would send is counterfeit and the victim would lose $1,600. Fortunately, the business smelled a rat and reported the situation to us.

These overpayment scams are plentiful and are everywhere so be careful.

Protect yourself

When you operate a small business, you have to be vigilant in protecting yourself against even the most unlikely of scams. We just received a report from a business reporting that someone had come into their store and wanted to sell them some food plates, supposedly for a worthy cause. He said that the food plates would be delivered the following Saturday morning to the business. The schemer was given a check in the amount of $12. The schemer then altered the check by putting a "one" in front of the $12 making it $112. Fortunately, a bank teller was alert enough to spot the change. One lesson here is, "don't make checks out to individuals."

It's really disheartening to see people con money out of other people in the name of a good cause.

Scareware

If you've ever landed on a web page that supposedly scanned your computer, said it was infected and tried to sell you anti-virus software, you've had a brush with "scareware."

Scareware is malicious software designed to scare consumers into buying something they don't need or unknowingly downloading a virus, spyware, etc.

Good news: U.S. and European law enforcement agencies recently busted two international cybercrime rings that infected more than 1 million computers worldwide with scareware and swindled consumers out of nearly $75 million in the process.

The scams were being operated from, not Nigeria, but from the U.S. and France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

It just makes one feel good to know someone got caught. It is a really rare occurrence.

Getting help against schemes

The Texas legislature passed two bills that may help protect consumers from payday loan and auto title schemes. One law requires lenders to provide certain disclosures to customers, such as fees and interest rates. Some of these fees can add up to an annual interest rate of more than 300 percent. Customers have found themselves owing much more than the initial cost of the loan. The second law creates a licensing requirement for car title and payday loan providers. The new requirement lets customers to check a lender out with the state before doing business. Both laws will be effective Jan. 1. Remember: Also beware of online lenders offering quick cash. Pay off the loan quickly. Don't pay a fee up front and never wire money.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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