Better Business Bureau: Don't be fooled by the Publisher Clearing House scam

By Alan Bligh

Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes' massive advertising campaign has started.

This means scam phone calls and fake mail are soon to follow. The scams that always trail the famous sweepstakes involve a phone call claiming a big check awaits the recipient.

A caller tells the person answering the phone that he or she has won a prize from Publisher's Clearing House.

But first, the person must pay a fee to retrieve the money they have allegedly won. Publishers Clearing House awards its prizes by a personal visit to the winners' homes and does not charge winners to collect their prize.

If you receive any phone calls or emails from Publishers Clearing House indicating you have won a prize and need to send money, don't do it.

CREDIT REPORT

It's a good idea for all of us to start the new year by knowing that our credit report is accurate.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers can receive a free copy of their credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - every 12 months.

Be careful, many television advertisements and websites claim to offer "free credit reports," "free credit scores" or "free credit monitoring." BBB reminds consumers that annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized source for free annual credit reports under federal law.

A credit report is a snapshot of your credit use history.

Your credit score is a number which shows lenders how much of a risk you are.

AIRLINE PHISHING SCAM

If you get a suspicious email that appears to be from American Airlines, it could be part of a scam to pilfer personal information. The airline suspects that hackers have sent out what are known as phishing emails intended to mislead people into giving up information such as their passwords to the airline's reward program.

To warn customers, American Airlines has posted several examples of the phony emails on its website. The airline warned anyone who gets the bogus emails not to click on any links, open any attachments or call the listed phone numbers.

Obviously, even though these phishing scams are old news, they keep putting on new faces to deceive people. And they must be quite successful, or we would not keep seeing them.

DID YOU KNOW?

Let's end this week's column with some common consumer questions that we at the office receive almost every day:

Does BBB handle problems between employees and employers?

No, we have no involvement with issues relating to people's employment.

Does BBB handle complaints against professionals such as doctors and lawyers?

If the issue involves the business aspects, such as billing, advertising, representations, we can help. If the issue concerns professional competency, then we will not be able to handle a complaint. In such cases, we will direct the complainant to the particular entity, usually a board, that functions as the overseer of that profession.

Does a consumer have a legal right to change their mind about a purchase for up to 72 hours?

No, except if the service or item is purchased from a peddler who came by their home.

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