Wrong Number Text Scams

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties: https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-the-tri-counties  A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repairs in Santa Barbara for Supporting this Podcast!

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! A new text message scam
seems so innocent that it’s tempting to reply. But con artists are using phony “wrong
number” texts to lure victims into conversation and falling for a scam.

How the scam works

You receive a text that reads something like this: “Hey is this John? It’s Amanda. We
chatted on Tinder before when I came to visit my cousin but we never met irl. I’m
back in town if you want to meet up this time, are you free?”

If you reply to a text like this, even with a polite, “Sorry, wrong number,” the stranger
responds anyway, seemingly ignoring your answer. Usually, you’ll receive a few
compliments and some photos of “Amanda,” who appears to be a scantily clad blonde
woman. However, as the word gets out about this scam, scammers will change up the
names, backstory, and photos.

If you continue to engage with the stranger, who is really a chat bot, it tries to trick you into registering for dating or adult websites. Your new “friend” will encourage you to sign up for a specific website to see more explicit photos, which may involve offering up your credit card number. Considering the dubious nature of this scam, if you hand over your credit card information at any point, you could be putting yourself at risk for fraudulent charges and identity theft.

Even BBB staff has received these texts. “I did a double-take,” says Pam Anson,
Director of Brand Outreach for BBB Serving Greater Cleveland. “It’s a different
approach than most scammers take and I didn’t think anything too seriously until more of my friends started to say that they also received it… It’s obvious that the scammers are trying to elicit a response, such as sympathy, to this woman for receiving a fake number from a friend, but we need to remind consumers that appearances can be deceiving.”

How to avoid chat bot scams

● Ignore texts from strangers. Strangers on the internet can pretend to be
anyone. Question motives behind both solicited and unsolicited messages. If you
receive a text from someone you don’t know, simply don’t reply. It’s the safest
route. If you engage with a scammer, even briefly, they will mark your number as
active and you could receive even more shady texts in the future.
● Block numbers that appear to come from scammers. Unsolicited texts that
look like they come from a chat bot or that ask you to click on suspicious links are
probably not safe. Block these numbers to prevent scammers from contacting
you through them again.

Never give your personal information to strangers. Never share your credit
card or banking information, your full name, home address, or social security
number with someone you never met in person. Remember that any photo you
upload on social media can be stolen and used by a scammer.

For more information

If you have compromised your personal information, you can report the incident to law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission.

For additional romance scam resources visit BBB.org/romance. Read the BBB Tip: Spot
the red flags of fake text messages. Read more about similar scams, such about text
messages with surprise offers.

If you’ve been the victim of a text message scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Your report can help expose scammers’ tactics so others won’t fall prey.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

How Much to Tip…

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties: http  s://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-the-tri-counties     A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repairs in Santa Barbara  

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! The end of the year is a time to
show appreciation for those who provide necessary services and little luxuries in your
daily life. But this year, the increased cost of goods and services means you may need
to pay extra attention to your tipping budget. Even if you are limited in what you can
give, there’s no need to feel uncomfortable. A little extra thoughtfulness can go a long

Determining who to tip and how much to give can be confusing. To avoid extra holiday
stress, BBB recommends the following tips to help you tip confidently while staying
within your budget.

Tips for holiday tipping

● Consider your budget. Begin planning your tips by looking over your holiday
budget, or creating one, if you haven’t already. Tips aren’t obligatory, so if you
don’t have the extra cash, consider other ways to show your gratitude. According
to the Emily Post Institute, homemade gifts or a simple thank you note are
perfectly acceptable ways to say “thank you” when funds are short.
● Start planning tips early. You don’t want to be scrambling through your purse to
find some extra cash when you see your regular delivery driver pull up. Once you
set your tipping budget, make a list of who you plan to tip and how much. Do this
as early as possible, keeping in mind that tipping before the holidays are officially
here means the recipient will have extra cash for holiday spending.
● Tip with cash when possible. Cash is usually the best way to give a tip. It
means the recipient has access to the funds right away and won’t have to pay
any fees to use the money. That said, if you regularly pay someone via an app
and want to tip that way, you can. Just make sure you include a brief note letting
them know the extra money is a tip for their excellent service.
● Make the tip attractive. For a classic tip, The Wall Street Journal says crisp bills
in an envelope that reads “Thank You” on the outside is ideal. You can even write
a brief thank you note to express your gratitude when appropriate.
● Tip according to the depth of your relationship. Match your tip amount to the
quality and quantity of work the person does for you. If you hire a babysitter
occasionally, an appropriate tip might be the equivalent of one evening’s pay. On
the other hand, if you have a live-in housekeeper, an entire week’s pay would be

Know Who NOT to Tip:

Some professionals can’t accept tips because of ethical
reasons, including doctors, lawyers, and government officials. Some companies
don’t allow their employees to accept tips. Don’t be afraid to ask up front if a
professional or company employee can accept tips if you aren’t sure. When
appropriate, a gift is a good alternative.

Tipping by Profession

● Personal service providers. For hairdressers, massage therapists, or any other
personal-service provider you regularly tip, consider upping your tip amount
during the holiday season. If you usually tip 20%, make it 40%. Depending on
your budget, you may decide to tip them the cost of an entire visit. The same
goes for other service providers, like your dog walker or groomer. The equivalent
of one service makes for a generous end-of-the-year tip.
● Nannies, babysitters and caregivers. A similar rule applies to tipping childcare,
home health aides, and similar professions. Tipping the cost of a session, such
as an evening’s pay for a regular sitter, is considered standard. For a live-in
nanny, consider a bonus of up to a week’s wages. For those hired through a
service, make sure you check that they are allowed to accept tips before giving.
● Building staff. If you live in an apartment building, consider tipping cleaners,
superintendents, security, and concierges. Somewhere between $25 to $100
each is a good range for this kind of service.
● Mail and delivery service providers. U.S. Postal Service workers may not
accept gifts of cash or gift cards, but they can accept small gifts worth $20 or
less. Canada Post workers can accept nominal gifts worth no more than $100. In
both countries, FedEx and UPS employees are encouraged to decline cash gifts,
but they can accept small personal gifts when making a delivery.
● Professional service providers. Most professionals, such as teachers, doctors,
lawyers, etc., won’t accept cash gifts, so consider giving them a gift card or
present instead, with a note of thanks.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

Choosing the Perfect Gifts for your Pets

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties:  https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-the-tri-counties

A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repair for supporting this podcast! https://www.ayersrepairs.com

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! Even with inflation
worries this holiday season, most pet owners still plan on spoiling their fur
babies with holiday gifts.

According to a poll by Chewy in 2022 (Chewy is a BBB Accredited Business), more than
90% of pet owners include their pets on their holiday shopping list, and another study
shows that giving to pets makes people happy.

However, with thousands of pet gifts to choose from, ranging from toys and treats to
doggie spa days and advent calendars, how can you choose a good gift for your pet?
BBB recommends the following tips to help you find the perfect gift: one that is safe,
within your budget, and one your pet will adore.

Choosing the perfect pet gift

● Stay within budget. If you are making multiple gift purchases this holiday
season, it’s especially important to plan your holiday budget and then stick to it.
Be sure to include your pets in the budget and then shop for gifts that are within
your means.
● Pick a gift that matches your pet’s personality. Just like people, every pet is
different. Some are more active than others, some are food-motivated, some love
to chew, and some love to run. Take your pet’s personality into consideration to
choose a gift they will really enjoy. The Humane Society has ideas for toys based
on your pets’ personalities and needs.
● Choose a gift that is safe. Most importantly, choose a gift that is safe. Avoid
toys that are small enough to be ingested. Make sure toys don’t have any
ribbons, string, rubber bands, etc., that a pet could swallow. You should also be
able to clean toys, whether that means machine washing them or wiping them
down occasionally.
● Know what’s inside your toys. For many dogs – and some cats – destroying a
toy is much of the fun. Keep this in mind when shopping. Read labels and make
sure what’s inside the toy is also safe. For example, many toy stuffings aren’t
digestible and could pose a danger.
● Check the ingredients in edible gifts. Stick to treats and foods that are made
specifically for dogs or cats. The FDA warns that many human treats contain
ingredients that are hazardous to pets, such as xylitol. If you’re looking for treats
that contribute to dental health, check the Veterinary Oral Health Council website for a list of acceptable chew treats for both dogs and cats. In addition to quality,
keep an eye on quantity. If your dog or cat has a stocking full of pet treats, don’t
let them gobble them up too fast, as this could lead to choking or digestive
● Weigh the pros and cons of subscription services. Subscription services can
be a fun way to give your pet gifts all year round, but you’ll want to do plenty of
research before signing up. Get to know the company, investigate free trials, and
make sure you know how to stop a subscription before you choose a service.
● Check out pet advent calendars. Pet advent calendars have become incredibly
popular in recent years. These can make good gifts too, but they aren’t always a
bargain. You’ll need to compare calendars to get the best deal. In addition, keep
an eye out for advent calendar scams, which have become especially common
through social media ads.
● Purchase gifts from reputable vendors, especially if you are making a
purchase online. Read consumer reviews before doing business with a company,
and keep an eye out for fake websites while you shop. If you ever need to return
an item that was purchased online, see our tips for hassle-free returns.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

Sticking to your Holiday Budget

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties  https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-the-tri-counties  

A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repair for supporting this podcast. https://www.ayersrepairs.com

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! Supply chain problems, shipping delays, and inflation can make it even tougher to create and stick to a budget during the holidays. This meansthat planning ahead and knowing your sp ending limits are more important than ever. How can you build a holiday budget that will cover buying for everyone on your list while keeping you out of debt? BBB recommends the following steps for calculating your seasonal budget and sticking to it.

How to make and stick to a holiday budget

● Calculate your debt. Before planning gifts and parties, take a look at how much
you owe. Pay close attention to any debt that incurs interest. If you have more
debt than you can pay off before the holidays, then you’ll want to keep spending
to a bare minimum. Remember, there are plenty of inexpensive and even free
ways to show friends and family how much you love them during the holiday
● Project your income and expenses. Next, calculate how much money you will
earn this holiday season. Review your income from the past three months to
calculate an average monthly income. Now, you know how much money you
have. Before you start setting aside money for holiday fun, make a list of any
regular expenses you need to address. These might include utility bills,
groceries, gas, and rent or mortgage payments. Don’t forget about any annual
fees that might come up around the new year, like HOA fees or your car
registration. Subtract these necessities from your monthly income. Add any
savings you’ve set aside for the holidays, and decide how much you can spend.

● Set up a separate holiday budget. Next, make a list of holiday expenses you
plan to incur. Include all holiday-related expenses but divide them into categories:
travel costs, holiday parties, decorations, cards, gifts, clothes, professional
photos, gift wrap, etc. Add up the cost of each item and subtract it from your
holiday budget amount. If you have leftover funds, great! If you are over budget,
consider what items you want to prioritize and what items you can modify or cut
from your list. For example, your budget might not allow you to host a 50-guest
holiday bash for the whole block, but you may be able to afford an intimate family
holiday dinner instead.
● Create a gift list. A detailed shopping list can be a huge help when working with
a specific holiday budget. Write down each individual you plan to buy a gift for preparation will help you do your research and find better deals when purchasing
their gift.
● Keep track of your spending. This is one of the most essential tips on this list.
By tracking your spending, you’ll always know how much you have left to spend,
when it is okay to splurge on an item, and when you’re approaching your budget
limit. Tracking your spending will keep you from making unwise purchases on a
whim and help you avoid taking on unnecessary debt.
● Plan for inflation. Inflation can affect both your gift-giving plans and your daily
expenses. Be sure to factor rising prices into your regular budget for items like
groceries and gas. When working on your holiday budget, it’s important to know
that some gifts will cost more than last year, and they may never go on sale
thanks to supply chain delays. Always do a price comparison before you buy a
product, and don’t be afraid to scale back on gift-giving this year if you need to.
● Take advantage of sales, rewards, and cash-back offers. Take advantage of
Black Friday deals, Small Business Saturday sales and Cyber Monday offers. If
you are part of a rewards or loyalty program that offers special discounts or
cash-back rewards, save money by using these promos to purchase gifts and
● Bundle your shipping. Free shipping may not be as common as last year, so
double-check the store’s shipping policies before you click the checkout button.
In some cases, you may be able to get multiple gifts in a single purchase so you
can reach the minimum dollar amount and qualify for free shipping.
● Avoid panic buying. Whatever you do, don’t panic buy. Yes, many items will be
in limited supply, but there are still many items you can purchase as gifts. It’s
never a good idea to pay more for an item than what it’s worth just because it’s in
short supply. In fact, that’s how many people fall victim to hot toy scams and
counterfeit product scams each year.
● Consider alternative ways to gift. If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy the
extravagant gifts you once did, there are still ways to practice meaningful giving
this holiday season. If you are creative, handmade gifts can mean the world to
your friends and family. Is there a new mom or an older person on your gift list?
Consider giving them a gift of service by offering to prepare dinner or clean their situation. Some families cut down on gift-giving by doing a Secret Santa
exchange with a set spending limit.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

Sports Memorabilia Scams (Warnings from BBB)

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Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! When shopping for a team jersey or other sports memorabilia, Watch out for fakes. Scammers know that authentic game-used and/or autographed items can fetch big bucks – especially for items commemorating big games.

When shopping online, it can be hard to trust that a seller or product is genuine. Follow these tips when buying sports memorabilia:

“Game-used” items are highly sought after. Buyers prize items that saw action on

the court or field as valuable parts of sports history. Consumers should be aware that there is a significant difference between “game-used” and “game-issued.” For example, a game-issued jersey was designed for the player to wear, but it may not actually have been worn. There’s nothing wrong with selling that game-issued item—unless the seller scuffs it up and tries to pass it off as game-used for a higher price.

Autographs are even trickier. With the use of autopen, manufacturers can reproduce ink signatures hundreds of times. Again, there’s nothing wrong with selling autopen-signed items as long as they’re not misrepresented as personally signed by the player and priced accordingly. Buyers also need to watch out for online listings that describe items as “hand-signed” without specifying whose hand-signed it. That could be technically correct but still highly misleading.

Outright forgeries can be the hardest to spot, and this issue has plagued collectors for decades. If you don’t have time to become an autograph authentication expert but still want to make purchases, here are some steps you can take.

How the scam works – an example

Victims of this scam typically find fake sports merchandise through a social media ad or a quick web search. These online scam stores have great photos and cheap prices, making them look believable.

Victims report that, at first, the purchase seems normal. The site charges their credit card and sends a confirmation email. However, weeks pass, and the jersey never arrives. The anticipation of having a keepsake of a favorite team is suddenly dashed when the victim tries to contact customer service. They quickly find that neither the company nor the product exists.

One disappointed fan reported the following to BBB Scam Tracker: “This company

advertised selling collector’s items of sports merchandise in special boxes. Each box was supposed to have a certain number of team-related items like a jersey, signed football or mini helmet, etc. I paid 69.99 for the top box of Chicago Bears items. What I actually got was a cheap no-brand jersey, an NFL keychain, and a face mask. I went to good to be true. If the price of an item, collectible or not, is significantly less than what it is on other well-known retailers sites, this is a red flag that it might be a scam.

Research the company before you purchase. If the company is unfamiliar,check BBB.org to see if they have a BBB Business Profile or BBB Scam Tracker to see if anyone else has reported them as a scam. Look for contact information on the website, such as a phone number or brick-and-mortar address, as well as a robust social media presence to help determine if the company indeed doesexist.

Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card as payment. Scammers often request both payment types, and once the money is gone, there is no way to get the money back. Instead, make online purchases with a credit card and only onsecure (https) websites.

Double-check COAs: Certificates of authenticity (COAs) are the norm for memorabilia purchases, especially for costly items so its likely that scammers will try to provide fake ones. A valid COA should state the qualifications and complete contact information of the issuer. Before you trust a COA, ensure itcontains full and correct details on who issued it, and then make sure theyre alegitimate and reputable authority. If investing in a less expensive purchase that

is not offered with a COA, the buyer should still request a written representation from the seller about the authenticity and origin of the item. It is also essential to establish and get a written statement about the items physical condition before you purchase it.

Take extra care at charity auctions: Some scammers target charities by providing donations of fake memorabilia. When considering a bid for an item at a charity auction, be vigilant and watch out for suspicious price valuations and shady authentications. When in doubt about an item, consider donating to the charity rather than an auction purchase.

Seek a money-back guarantee: If possible, work with a dealer who can guarantee a full refund of your purchase if you ever discover its a fraud. Check all terms and conditions of the sale, especially limitations, before buying the item.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

BBB’s Holiday Tips on Scoring Hard to Find Items

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Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! National experts are predicting an increase in spending this holiday season. There is also a concern if many of the items on consumers’ holiday lists will be available on the shelf or online and are faced with the disappointing words: “Sorry, this item is currently out of stock.” That’s especially true when there are challenges with supply chains.

But does that mean the words “out of stock” are the end of the line? Not at all. With a little determination and some creative thinking, the item might be found and purchased. Here are BBB’s tips for finding items that are sold out in stores.

How to buy out-of-stock items

Try a different store. Avoid limiting the search to the most popular brick-and-mortar stores. Consider researching multiple vendors’ websites to see who is carrying stock. If the large chain stores are out of what you need, try a reputable independent shop or a different type of store entirely. For example, when toilet paper was in short supply at grocery stores, some consumers found stock in unlikely places, such as hardware stores, restaurant suppliers, or office supply stores.

Check websites frequently. If there is an item out of stock when shopping online, don’t give up hope right away. Bookmark the product page and check back daily. Many vendors restock high-demand products on a regular basis.

Sign up for restock alerts. Many companies offer restock alerts, which are usually sent by email. For example, on Amazon, look for an availability alert on a product’s information page. Amazon will send an e-mail when the item becomes available. Keep in mind, you still have to go to the website or store to make the purchase once the alert arrives.

Go straight to the product’s source. If a brand name item isn’t available from a favorite retailer, check the brand’s official website to see if it’s in stock there. If not, consider getting in touch by emailing customer service or reaching out through social media.

Take advantage of return policies. If you suspect that an item will sell out quickly but you aren’t sure if you really need or want it, review the store’s return policy. If a store gives you the option to return an item and offer a refund, you may want to purchase the item as soon as it’s available. You can always send it back if it doesn’t fit your needs, but you may regret not purchasing if the stock runs out for good.

Search for products on resale sites. If a product appears to be gone for good, don’t lose hope just yet. Some resale sites may offer hard-to-find products. That said, watch out for scammers when looking for this year’s hottest toy or a product that is very popular. Con artists prey on desperate shoppers by pretending to have an item that is impossible to find, accepting payments, and then never delivering the product.

Consider a personal shopping service. Personal shoppers can do the heavy lifting if there is a very specific product you are hunting for. Be sure to read reviews and ask for recommendations from friends and family members before deciding to hire.

Try out a subscription service. Subscription services offer regular deliveries of cleaning products, clothing and more. If the local stores are running out of fresh produce, for example, consider a meal delivery service.

Be patient. Sometimes, despite the best efforts, it just may not be possible to find most popular items. If this happens to you, be patient. You may have to wait a few months until suppliers can meet consumers’ demands.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

Class Action Lawsuit Scams to Watch Out For!

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A podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties  A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repair in Santa Barbara for supporting this podcast!  

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! You’ve likely heard ads on the
TV or radio about the Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit for U.S. military veterans and
their families exposed to tainted water at the camp. Marketing agencies and law firms
spent over $40 million advertising the lawsuit. Now, scammers are jumping on board
too, hoping all the media attention makes it easier to trick people, especially military
personnel, into falling for common scam tactics.

How the scam works

You receive an email or phone call telling you you qualify for compensation for the
Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit. The email may claim you are entitled to tens of
thousands of dollars. You need to click a link or call a number to get your compensation.
For example, one recent target told BBB Scam Tracker: “[The caller] said they were
representing Camp Lejeune and needed information about my brother who served in
the military. Since he died years ago from cancer, they said I had $5,000,000 waiting in
compensation from the Marines.”

From here, the scam takes several different forms. Clicking the link could download
malware onto your computer or mobile device, putting you at risk for identity theft. In
other versions, scammers direct you to a website with a form that asks for personal
information. In yet another variation, the scammers are after your money and personal
details. They claim you need to pay an upfront fee, so they can file your case and
receive your money. If you pay them, they’ll continue to ask for more “filing fees” until
you become suspicious. As soon as you realize the con, the scammer will disappear
with your information and money.

How to avoid class action lawsuit scams

● Don’t believe in promises of quick cash with minimal effort. Scammers love to
promise that fast cash is in your immediate future. The reality is even
well-deserved compensation will take time to receive. It’s worth noting, too, that
veterans who served at Camp Lejeune can apply for VA disability compensation
and health care benefits without filing a lawsuit or getting help from a lawyer.

● Never click on links in suspicious emails. Be wary of unsolicited emails in
general. Please don’t click on the links they contain, as they could lead you to
fake websites or download malware onto your computer.
● Stay alert to variations of this scam. Emails aren’t the only way scammers may
try to contact you about this and other class action lawsuits. Keep your eye out
for similar scams sent via text messages, phone calls, or even mail.
● If you think you deserve compensation, apply through official channels. Visit
VA.gov/CampLejeune for official information on how to apply for compensation.
You can file for disability compensation online and learn what steps to take to file
a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
● Only work with reputable representatives. If you are ready to file a claim or
appeal and need help, don’t settle for working with the first lawyer who pops up
on a TV ad. Instead, do thorough research before choosing a legal representative. Get to know all your options, including working with an accredited attorney or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO).

Until next time!

Check out this episode!

Beware of Holiday Job Scams!

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties 

A BIG Thank you to Ayers Repairs in Santa Barbara for Supporting this Podcast

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust! Retailers and shippers
traditionally hire seasonal workers to fulfill holiday shoppers’ demands, whether online
or in person. These jobs are a great way to make extra money, sometimes with the
possibility of turning into a long-term employment opportunity. However, they are
sometimes not all that they seem.

When looking for something part-time or to fill the gap until a better opportunity comes,
the Better Business Bureau has some suggestions to make the seasonal job hunt
successful. According to the 2022 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, employment scams
rose to the second riskiest in 2022. Being proactive in finding the right opportunity is
key, but be careful when a job just seems too good to be true.

Tips to avoid holiday job scams

● Employers will never ask for payment upfront for a job. Beware businesses that
ask applicants to pay for job supplies, application, or training fees. These
expenses are the employer’s responsibility – and asking for money is a big red
flag that something is wrong.
● Be wary of job offers that don’t require an interview. Even during the peak hiring
season, reputable companies prefer to talk to top job candidates before hiring
them. If a job offer is presented without an interview (on the phone or in person)
or is offered only via the Internet, question the company’s hiring practices and do
a little more digging.
● Be wary of big money for small jobs. If an employer promises outrageously good
wages for simple tasks such as reshipping packages, stuffing envelopes, or
answering phones, this is a red flag. These too-good-to-be-true offers are an
attempt to steal your personal information from a fake job application and can
cause problems for you for a long time.
● Never work for a company before they hire you. A legitimate company will not
ask potential applicants to complete complex projects before making an official
offer. Before beginning any work, request an offer letter or written confirmation of
what the job entails, including an official start date and compensation details.

For more information

Read more about employment scams and how to avoid them.
For more holiday tips, visit the BBB Holiday Tips page.

Until Next Time!  

Check out this episode!

ZOMBIE DEBT…Don’t Let it Come Back to HAUNT YOU!

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A Podcast by BBB of the Tri-Counties:  https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-the-tri-counties

A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repair in Santa Barbara, for supporting this podcast. https://www.ayersrepairs.com

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust!

Zombie debt is defined as debt that has been “raised from the dead,” so to
speak. It could even be something you never owed at all.  When a person doesn’t pay a debt, the lender will take action – by phone, letter, or even a court case – to collect the money they are owed. In some cases, though, the debtor simply can’t pay or can’t be found. In other cases, the debtor files for bankruptcy and, depending on the kind of debt owed, the debt may be put on hold, renegotiated or discharged completely.  Sometimes, this old debt comes back to life.

Some of the most common scenarios of zombie debt are the following:

● Unpaid debts that are beyond the statute of limitations when you can be taken to
court for payment
● Unpaid debts you owe but forgot about
● Unpaid debts wiped out with bankruptcy
● Debts you already settled with the creditor
● Fraudulent charges from identity theft
● Fake debts “creditors” claim you owe as part of a scam

How does debt come back to life?

Creditors often remove old debt from their ledgers and sell it to third-party collectors. In
some cases, the debts are legitimate, but in other cases, they aren’t. When debts are
sold and re-sold, the records may be incomplete or inaccurate. Think of it as a game of
“telephone.” The more times a debt is passed around, the more chance that the related
information is wrong.

When debt collectors call

The legal treatment of old debt will depend on where you live and the type of debt in
question. Depending on the law, debt collectors are not allowed to sue for old debt if the
statute of limitations has expired, however, they are still allowed to contact you and ask
to pay off the old debt. Check the statute of limitations for each U.S. state and Canadian
province for more information. However, if you start to make payments or acknowledge the debt in some way, the action may restore the collection agency’s legal right to take the matter to court. Never agree to make a payment on a debt you aren’t sure about, even if the collection agency puts pressure on you for payment.

The best way to start is by doing a thorough investigation. Search through old records to
find bank statements and notices of payment. Gather as many facts as possible about
the debt in question. Next, within 35 days of initial contact and without acknowledging
the debt is yours, ask the creditor for a debt validation letter. The Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA) requires the debt collection agency to provide you with written
proof of the debt’s validity or a judgment against you, as well as the name and address
of the original creditor if the debt was resold. Once this information is gathered,
determine if the debt is really yours and if it still needs to be paid.

If you determine the debt was yours, but you already paid it, write a letter to the
collections agency and demand that they cease contact. Include proof of payment if
available. The collections agency is legally required to stop contacting you under the

If you determine the debt is not yours or is invalid, write a letter challenging its validity
and where applicable, include any proof you may have. If you determine you do owe the funds and you can pay the debt, resolve the issue by first getting a payment agreement in writing and then eliminating your unresolved debt.  If you determine you do owe the funds, but you can’t pay the debt, you can pursue debt relief through bankruptcy or credit counseling.

When deciding what route to take, keep in mind that once a debt is past the statute of
limitations, collectors can no longer sue you to get payment. In addition, the FDCPA
stipulates that any unpaid debts should be removed from a person’s credit score after
seven years. If you decide to begin paying or pay in full an old debt, it could restart the
statute of limitations and affect your credit.

Learn more about ways your identity can be compromised without you even knowing it.
If you need to contact a collection agency to dispute a debt, request a debt validation
letter or ask the collection agency to cease contact, use these templates on Consumer.gov.

Remember that while most debt collection agencies are legitimate, there may be times
when a scammer is phishing for information. For more information on how to avoid this scheme, visit BBB.org/AvoidScams. If you’ve been targeted by a debt collection scam,
be sure to report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Check out this episode!

Did you Make this Purchase? DON’T ANSWER THIS TEXT!

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This Podcast is Brought to you by BBB of the Tri-Counties

A BIG thank you to Ayers Automotive Repairs of Santa Barbara for supporting this podcast!  

Welcome to this week’s edition of Your Moment of Trust!

One of scammers’ favorite tactics is impersonating a person or organization you know and trust. That’s the premise of this new text message scam, which has been popping up in recent BBB Scam Tracker reports. This time, con artists are impersonating your bank.

How the scam works

You receive a text message that looks like a fraud alert from your bank. It claims there is some unusual activity in your account. It may read: “Bank Fraud Alert – Did you approve a transaction for $1,000? Reply YES or NO.” If you reply to the text, the scammer now knows they have an active number – and a person to scam.
The scam doesn’t end there. The scammer will call you to follow up, and the number will appear in the caller ID as coming from your bank. When you answer, the caller claims to be a bank representative who can help stop the fraudulent charges. To do so, you need to send money to yourself using Zelle or another digital wallet app. The caller walks you through connecting the app to your bank account. Then, they ask you to verify the connection by sharing the code your bank sent.  Don’t do it! If you give the scammer your verification code, they can set up an account with your phone number and email – but their bank account information. If that happens,
when you send money to “yourself,” you’re sending money to the scammer. Disputing the charges will be difficult because the scammer has tricked you into approving the transaction. Sending money through a digital wallet app is like using cash, making it hard to get your money back. One consumer reported this experience to BBB Scam Tracker: “I received two texts stating it was the Wells Fargo Fraud Department wanting to know if I had made a Zelle transfer… I responded no and immediately got another text stating, ‘Thank you, no further action is needed, a representative will call you from 800-869-3556.’ Within a few minutes, I got a call from an individual stating they were with the Wells Fargo fraud department. The caller ID on my phone said Wells Fargo, and the person said they could reverse the transaction if I sign into my online account and open the Zelle app. I did this and the caller asked if I saw my name. I told him I saw my name in two places. It looked like I would be sending money to myself. The caller said everything was fine and
the money would come back to my account. After the call ended, I got two texts stating funds for $2,500 and $1,000 would be deposited in my Wells Fargo account. I went back into my account and there was no evidence of any deposits. What I did see was $3,500 taken out of my account and a zero account balance.”

How to avoid bank fraud scams

● Understand your bank’s policies. Know that your bank will never ask you to send
money to yourself. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, it’s a scam.
● Watch out for fake caller IDs. Scammers can spoof caller ID names and numbers
to make you think you are receiving a call from a reputable source. If you weren’t
expecting to be contacted by your bank, it’s best to avoid answering. Instead, call
the number on the back of your ATM card to confirm that there is an issue.
● Never share one-time passcodes. Scammers can use one-time passcodes from
your bank or any other company to access your accounts and change
information. Don’t share them with anyone, no exceptions.
● Contact your bank if you suspect a scam. If you receive an unsolicited call, text,
or email that you suspect is a scam, contact your bank immediately and let them
● Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Ignore any instructions to reply yes or no if you
receive an unsolicited, suspicious text message. If you reply to a scammer, they
could save your number as “active” and target you with future scams.
For more information
See the related BBB Scam Alert about phony banking texts and calls and review the
BBB Tip on avoiding impostor scams.
If you spot a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid
falling victim to similar scams.

Until next time!

Check out this episode!