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Better Business Bureau: Social Security checks to stop

By By Alan Bligh
March 24, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 23, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.


Adult children have something new to worry about: Their elderly parents' Social Security checks will stop coming next year.

It's not that the government is cutting seniors off from Social Security, Veterans Affairs, federal pension and other checks. Instead, in a money-saving move, it's moving to an all-electronic system and will send the last paper checks out next February.

If folks don't sign up for direct deposit, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise when the change goes into effect. Instead of a check, they will receive a prepaid debit card with their benefits on a prepaid Direct Express MasterCard. But, like other prepaid cards, the card comes with pesky fees.

We at BBB are concerned that when this story hits the media, the schemers will take advantage of the confusion and begin a new wave of new scams directed at seniors, veterans, etc.

Now, here is a type of business I had not thought about; the pet insurance industry.

This relatively new industry has experienced a 10-fold growth over the last 10 years, increasing from one, single pet insurance company in 1997 to 11 companies today. With pet owners spending up to $650 a year on vet bills, pet insurance agencies help offset the costs by offering plans from $15 to $75 a month, according to USA Today.

Although only 1 percent of U.S. dogs and cats are insured, many companies have seen a dramatic increase in sales. Pets Best, for instance, has increased sales by 20 percent each year since 2005. Pets Best's founder believes the increases in sales are because of the increasing costs of veterinary care and pet owners' views of pets as family members.

American Express card holders beware. Consumers report receiving fake emails, informing them that their accounts' email addresses have been changed. These scam emails are remarkably sophisticated. Not only do they use the American Express logo, they copy the business' email design and color scheme.

The message informs recipients that the email address on their American Express account has been changed and provides a link to where they can log in and correct the address. The link, along with the ones in the email footer, actually leads to a third-party website that downloads a virus on users' computers.

What should you do if you receive one of these? Do not reply or click on the link and delete the email. If you did click on the link, you better run a virus scan.

And, finally, a warning to businesses: Watch out for a phony fax supposedly from the U.S. Department of Transportation Procurement Office.

Con artists are using the guise of a government agency to steal money from hardworking businesses. The faxed letter implies any procurement decisions cannot be made until the company provides authorization to release the business' financial information. Once a scammer has this information, a business' checking account could be drained.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, this scam has been going on for years. The DOT states it does not require any financial information to be submitted to be eligible for procurement. Make sure you train your employees to recognize these types of common business scams.

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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