Posted by Tom Talbott

This week we welcomed Amy Schram, a Senior Community Relations Specialist with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as our guest speaker. At the outset, she noted that at any time we had questions to feel free to jump in. It didn’t take long for our inquisitive group to commandeer her presentation with both questions and personal experiences. 

Amy provided an overview of the BBB. Over 106 years, the non-profit organization has built a database that currently holds information on 5.5 million businesses, much of it free and accessible to the public. The BBB acts as a moderator and facilitates dialogue between customers and businesses, as well as B2B. 

Amy then turned her focus to the issue of scams, fraud, identity theft and cybersecurity.  You might want to check out the free BBB service, Scam Tracker:  Here you can find what current scams may be hitting your area, what is being reported, and how to report ones you see. This year alone, 48,000 scams have been recorded by the system. All of this information is shared by the BBB to the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, local and state government, police, as well as community or regional organizations such as AARP or SMAAA.

Scammers are almost impossible to catch because the vast majority operate outside the U.S. Hot spots include Jamaica, Dubai, Toronto, China, and Russia. Scammers have sophisticated systems, and use throwaway phones. They move quickly, and take advantage of every nugget of information they can obtain.

Let’s face it.....on the Web, there is so much information about you already posted. Your address, your phone, your relatives – all so easy to obtain. Now add in more personal info from Facebook, LinkedIn, your business website, or other social media sources. The clever caller may say your name. They make a statement just to hear your response. For example, they will say they are calling about your Verizon account, and you say sorry, you use Sprint. Next week you get a call from someone saying they are from Sprint and your bill is overdue. These predators will make 1000 calls a day, just looking to add snippets of info, that can used, or be sold to another scam company. Bottom line is that with your info out there, it is just a matter of time before it will be used against you. 

Imposter scams are the most predominant. Calls ‘from’ banks, cable and phone companies, utilities, credit cards, online shopping stores, even the police, will sound real, but it is a trap.

The “police” call to say you have overdue parking tickets, they’ll describe your car, and give you a few hours to pay or risk arrest. They’ll even have a 207-exchange number. It’s very misleading, and easy to fall for.

If you do not recognize the phone number, resist answering. If it is a legit call, they will leave a message and you can call back. One suggestion:  Go to (NMRB) and see how you can block recorded/automated phone calls. NMRB will detect it before you answer and disconnect the line. Free for land line, small charge for smart phones. 

An interesting meeting, with lessons we should heed.



(Photo: President John Curran and Amy Schram.)