uc logo white
Text Size

Home

Take a Survey, Get $100? Don't Fall for It!

Booking a summer vacation? Steer clear of fake offers promising you gift cards in exchange for taking a quick customer survey. This scam keeps cropping up, and it's back with a seasonal travel twist.

Booking a summer vacation? Steer clear of fake offers promising you gift cards in exchange for taking a quick customer survey. This scam keeps cropping up, and it's back with a seasonal travel twist.  

How the Scam Works: 

You receive an email or see a social media post urging you to claim a free voucher or gift card. "You have-earned-yourself a $100-GiftCard: Take Our-Survey," reads the subject line of one version. This time of year, fake airline offers are particularly popular, but the "gift card" could be from any well-known brand. The email urges you to click a link and complete a short customer survey. 

It sounds easy... but don't do it! These survey scams have a variety of tricks. The link may lead to a real survey, but when you complete it, the $100 gift card happens to be "out of stock." Not coincidentally, all that remains are "free" samples of spammy products like diet pills and wrinkle cream. In other versions, the form is actually a phishing scam that requests banking and credit card information. Or the link may download malware to your computer to steal your passwords and other critical information.  

Tips to Spot a Fake Voucher Scam: 

With many businesses offering discounts in exchange for customer feedback, it can be hard to tell a real offer from a fake one. Here are some pointers.

  • Look up the website on WhoIs. Right click on the link and select "Copy Link Address." Then, paste this destination URL into the WhoIs.net directory. This directory will tell you when and to whom a domain is registered. If the URL is brand new, or if the ownership is masked by a proxy service, consider it a big warning sign of a scam. 
  • Watch out for look-alike URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look similar to those of legitimate sites. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (the TLD is the part of the name after the dot). 
  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there's a link to their privacy policy. 
  • Watch out for a reward that's too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses give away $100 gift cards just for answering a few questions.
_________________ The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Pay to Decode Your Own Files? It's Ransomware

The ransomware scam is back and more vicious than ever, according to a new FBI report. Ransomware is a virus that freezes your computer, holding it ransom until you pay to unlock it. Victims are reporting losing up to $10,000 in a new version of this scam that encrypts your files.

The ransomware scam is back and more vicious than ever, according to a new FBI report. Ransomware is a virus that freezes your computer, holding it ransom until you pay to unlock it. Victims are reporting losing up to $10,000 in a new version of this scam that encrypts your files. 

How the Scam Works:

You click on an infected advertisement, link or email attachment. Suddenly, a pop up appears. The screen tells you that all the files on your computer have been encrypted, making them useless unless you have a key to decode them. 

This new version of ransomware is appropriately named CryptoWall. Of course, decoding your files doesn't come free. Different versions charge anywhere from $200 to $10,000. 

BBBRansomeWare

CryptoWall virus demands payment for decoding files

To remove the virus without paying the scammers, try running a scan on your computer to identify and delete the malicious files. If you are unable to remove the malware, you may need to wipe your machine's hard drive and reinstall files and software. Most versions of this scam demand payment in Bitcoin. The online currency is decentralized and anonymous, making it a new favorite method of payment for scammers.  Like pre-paid debit cards and wire transfers, if you pay with Bitcoin, it's like paying in cash. 

Protect Yourself from a Ransomware Scam  

Avoid ransomware scams by not downloading one. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Protect your computer (and your cell phone) by using antivirus software and a firewall from a reputable company. 
  • Update your software regularly. The regular reminders to update your browsers and other software are annoying, but they are for a good reason. These updates protect against the constantly evolving viruses and system vulnerabilities. 
  • Enable popup blockers. Popups are regularly used by scammers to spread malware. Prevent them from appearing in the first place by adjusting your browser settings.
  • Be skeptical. Don't click on emails or attachments you don't recognize, and avoid suspicious websites.
  • Always back up the content on your computer. If you back up your files, ransomware scams will have limited impact. If you are targeted, you can simply have your system wiped clean and reload your files.
_______________________ The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Summer Contracting Scam Tricks Homeowners

Summer is unfortunately the season for home improvement scams and fly-by-night contractors. BBB has received reports of contractors luring victims with a great deal on driveway paving only to stick them with a stiff bill.

Summer is unfortunately the season for home improvement scams and fly-by-night contractors. BBB has received reports of contractors luring victims with a great deal on driveway paving only to stick them with a stiff bill. 

How the Scam Works:

You answer the door, and it's a construction contractor. He says that he's just completed a job down the street, and he has a truck of leftover asphalt. Rather than take a loss on the supplies, he claims that he's offering driveway repaving at a cheap price. He quotes you a rate, and it's far below what the job typically costs. 

This sounds like a great deal, but don't fall for it. Once they start working, these scammers will "find" an issue that causes them to significantly raise the price. If you object, the con artists may threaten to walk away from the job, leaving you with a half-finished driveway. In another version, the scammer accepts an upfront payment and then never returns to complete the job. 

Driveway paving is far from the only version of this scam. Homeowners have also been taken in by similar techniques involving roofing, painting and other scams.  

Protect Yourself from Contractor Scams 

Follow these tips when hiring someone to work on your home. 

  • Work with local businesses: Make sure the contractor has appropriate identification that tells you it's a legitimate company. Check out businesses at BBB.org.  
  • Check references: Get references from several past customers. Get both older references (at least a year old) so you can check on the quality of the work and newer references so you can make sure current employees are up to the task.
  • Make sure it's legal: Confirm that any business being considered for hire is licensed and registered to do work in your area. Also, if in doubt, request proof of a current insurance certificate from a contractor's insurance company.
  • Get it in writing: Always be sure to get a written contract with the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.
  • Watch for "red flags": Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, and on-site inspections. 

For More Information 

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). For more information on other consumer topics, check out our blog at bbb.org/blog

_____________________

The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Too close to call

Got a question about a product or an account from a big-name online retailer that makes you want to speak directly to their customer service representative? What do you do first? Go to their website, of course. Can’t find a phone number there? Then you may do what seems like the next best thing and just type the company name into a search engine. Got a question about a product or an account from a big-name online retailer that makes you want to speak directly to their customer service representative? What do you do first? Go to their website, of course. Can’t find a phone number there? Then you may do what seems like the next best thing and just type the company name into a search engine. But the FTC warns consumers that it’s a mistake to assume that all toll-free numbers that pop up in a search are legitimate customer service lines. Some are run by scammers out to hijack your credit card number or install malware on your computer. We’re used to having easy phone access to major retailers. Scammers know that, too, so they’re gaming the system to mislead consumers. Using company names and URLs that look confusingly similar to national shopping outlets and big box stores, scammers hope that consumers will see the look-alike sites at the top of search engine results and assume they’re legitimate. Once they have you on the line with your defenses down, scammers try to get you to reveal your credit card number. In a variation on recent tech support scams, others claim to spot a security problem on your computer that they’ll fix — for a fee, of course. Want to stay away from these scams? Here are some tips to help keep you safe.
  1. On some search engines, the prime real estate at the top or on the side of results pages is for sale. That’s why it’s unwise to assume that phone numbers that appear early in the list are always valid. Scammers may even use a variation on the real company’s name in their web address, which is why the presence of a familiar-sounding URL is no guarantee the phone number and website are genuine.
  2. The most reliable place to go for information is the URL you know is the company’s official website. However, not every company chooses to have a toll-free customer service number, and even those that do might not highlight it in all caps and bold it across the home page. Look for a “Contact Us” or “How can we help?” link, maybe on the bottom of the page or on a button bar at the top or along the side. This may take some time to navigate, but it will increase the likelihood that you’re going straight to the source.
  3. Toll-free numbers aren’t the only way companies connect with consumers these days. Some might limit their communication to email. Others offer an online chat function. Some companies direct consumers to enter a phone number with the promise that they’ll get a return call from the next available operator. Times are changing, and these are all now possibilities.
  4. So what should you do if you spot a fake customer service line? File a complaint with the FTC. Chances are you’re not the only one who is experiencing this. By letting us know, you can help us protect others.
Even if it involves some digging on a company’s website to find reliable contact information, search carefully and you’ll be more likely to stay safe online and strike gold with your search. _____________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.