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How to spot a scammer from a mile away: 2 Wants to Know

Maybe you're curious about how to forgive some of your student loan debt or getting a home warranty, but don't let scammers take advantage of that!

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Lechelle Yates from the Better Business Bureau joins 2 Wants to Know to talk about scams and the best practices you can take to protect yourself.

Buy now, pay later

BBB has a warning for us about the new buy now/pay later options we see popping up in almost every online shopping cart. 

Afterpay is a popular one. It breaks the cost of an item into 4 easy fixed payments, from $4 mascara to a Peloton bike. But this new payment option, which is really a loan, does not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. 

If you have a problem with a purchase, say your product never arrives or it's defective, buy now pay later lenders generally require you to first contact the merchant to get a credit for a return or a refund. Until the merchant tells the lender it's processed, you might still have to continue to make payments! 

Watch out for fraudulent QR codes

Companies use QR codes to point consumers to their apps, track packages, or view menus. But because these codes can’t be read by the human eye, they have become a way for scammers to disguise malicious links.

In some scams, the QR code takes you to a phishing website, where you are prompted to enter your personal information or login credentials for scammers to steal. Other times, con artists use QR codes to automatically launch payment apps or follow a malicious social media account.  

BBB issues warning about calls, letters, and postcards about a car warranty or service contract

  • These people have no direct business relationship with your automaker, even though they try to make it sound like they do.
  • The coverage is different from manufacturer extended warranties, which pay for repairs at your dealership.

These letters and calls seem urgent? 

Scammers use urgency to make you panic. If you're nervous about messing up a warranty, or something else major to your life, you could make quick decisions in an attempt to correct the problem. This is what scammers want. There's important language to look out for: 

  • “This notice is to inform you that your (vehicle year and model) is in need of vehicle protection in order to ensure its continued safe operation."
  • "Please call us today at (toll-free number)."
  • The recipient is given a deadline date to respond and is told: immediate response requested.”

I don't have a warranty, but I got a call and I actually am interested in getting a warranty now. 

The BBB offers tips on getting vehicle service contracts: 

  • Read your manufacturer’s warranty and contact your manufacturer to make sure you're not purchasing duplicate coverage.
  • Research any business. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at BBB.org There are a few accredited companies out there.
  • Beware of claims that you will receive “bumper-to-bumper” coverage on your vehicle. That does not necessarily mean that every problem will be covered. Look for conditions and disclaimers.
  • Do the math. Sometimes the cost of a service contract may be more than the value of the vehicle.

I received an invoice for a service I never ordered, what do I do? 

The BBB is seeing an uptick in businesses receiving fake invoices that try to fool you into paying for products/services you didn't order. Scammers are co-opting the names of real organizations - USTA - the United States Tennis Association, as well as BBB! Make sure you know how to spot the scam. 

  • Train your staff/yourself so you know the scam exists.
  • Create a process for inspecting invoices. Always check that goods or services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice. Designate a small group of employees with the authority to approve purchases, receive shipments, and pay the bills. It’s also a good idea to consolidate your domain registrations with a single registrar and make sure the domain is registered in your company’s name, not your vendor’s.

What if someone is offering me a free trial? It's a free trial, what's the harm? 

Scammers found a new way to get you to fall for a free trial offer - offer free trials of CBD products. Ads for this are on social media - all you do is pay a few dollars for shipping, but here's the problem: 

  • You're actually signing up for ongoing monthly subscriptions - $80 bucks in some cases.
  • Canceling subscriptions is not easy.
  • You won't get a refund

If you want to try something you see in an ad, research the company for complaints by doing a Google search or checking with the BBB. 

Tips to avoid free trial scams: 

  • Always read the terms and conditions - that's where the scammers hide that you're signing up for an ongoing monthly subscription and the exact steps you need to take to get out of it.
  • Be wary of celebrity endorsements - they're typically fake.
  • Report losses to credit card company - pay with a credit card, check your statements and report charges to your credit card company. MasterCard has said companies have to notify you before every charge of a subscription - make sure MasterCard is keeping their word.