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Better Business Bureau: Gift card ploy leads to burglaries

Oct. 1, 2011 at 5:01 a.m.


By Alan Bligh

We are advising consumers to be wary of unsolicited calls claiming they have won gift cards from local stores and that they need to come to the store and claim his or her prize. The scam is meant to lure people away from their homes, giving burglars the opportunity to break in. When the consumers arrive at the store to claim the prize, they find out that there is no gift card, and there never was. Once they return home, they discover their house has been burglarized. Remember, if you receive such a call: Ask direct questions. Be cautious of unknown callers. If someone calls stating you have "won" or been "gifted" or "prized" with anything of value, think twice. Hang up, and call the store that supposedly called you to verify the truthfulness of the call.Jury duty scam

It's back. The jury room scam. Schemers are calling to inform victims of a missed jury summons. The caller claims there is a warrant out for the victim's arrest because he or she has missed the scheduled court date, then goes on to ask for the victim's personal information to clear the warrant from the government's system. The scammers may be very kind and polite, insisting that this is all a mistake, or they might be intimidating in an attempt to scare you into giving them the information. They do not often allow the victim time to think or confirm the information before threatening legal action or jail. If you get such a phone call and you don't remember receiving a jury summons, hang up and contact the jury administration office directly.FBI didn't send it

Consumers continue to be inundated by spam, supposedly from the FBI. The latest versions use the names of several high ranking executives within the FBI to attempt to defraud consumers. Many of the spam emails currently in circulation claim to be an "official order" from the FBI's Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division, from an alleged FBI unit in Nigeria, calling to confirm an inheritance or contain a lottery notification, all informing recipients they have been named the beneficiary of millions of dollars. To claim the large sum, recipients are instructed to furnish their personally identifiable information and are often threatened with some type of penalty, such as prosecution, if they fail to do so. Unfortunately, some people fall for these scams.Seniors, beware

Fraud targeting senior citizens continues to be a increasingly widespread concern. In 2010, more than 2,700 seniors filed complaints with BBB, and so far this year, BBB has received more than 1,300 complaints. A survey conducted by Investor Protection Trust in 2010 estimated that 7.3 million older Americans have been victims of financial scams. That is one out of every five seniors. You have heard me discuss the most common scams against seniors: the Grandparent scam, the foreign lotteries and the bereavement scams. With this last one, the bereavement scam, we suggest that people offer help to elderly friends or family members if they have recently lost a loved one and are inexperienced in managing finances. Always feel free to call BBB or the Golden Crescent Area Agency on Aging if you have a question.

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

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