How to steer clear of phone, online schemes - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

How to steer clear of phone, online schemes

The BBB gets around 15 calls per day from people in our area saying they got a call that they won the lottery or sweepstake. The BBB gets around 15 calls per day from people in our area saying they got a call that they won the lottery or sweepstake.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Beware of schemers trying to rip you off online and over the phone. Recently, the Coastal Carolina chapter of the Better Business Bureau said it has noticed a few different schemes popping up.

Publisher's Clearing House fake winnings:

Kathy Graham, the CEO and president of the Coastal Carolina Better Business Bureau, says they are getting at least 15 calls a day from people wondering if they've been tricked in a fake lottery. Lots of those calls revolve around fake winnings from the Publisher's Clearing House.

Two viewers reached out to WMBF News saying they got multiple phone calls that they won a car through the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. And that they needed to wire anywhere from $250 to $1,500 to cover any taxes or fees. Do not fall for it.

Publisher's Clearing House is a legitimate sweepstakes, but this is not how they function. According to Graham, the biggest thing to remember is if you didn't enter, there's no way you can win. The second major red flag is if you get the winning notice in the mail, check the return address. If it's from out of the country, it's fake. The other major red flag: they'll ask you to wire money or pay for the taxes up front. No legitimate sweepstakes will ever ask you to do that. According to Graham these calls typically target older people.

“They wire the money, they get this check back, they deposit it, the bank releases the funds. Doesn't mean it's cleared, but they've released the funds. They redo the floor, they get a pool in the back yard, buy a big screen TV. And six weeks later the bank comes back and says that check was no good and we need you to make it right. And all that stuff you've purchased, now you owe the money back,” says Graham.

Cashing a fraudulent check is illegal and can put you in jail. The best advice is to ask, and if you're at all concerned call the BBB at (843) 488-2227.

Fake computer virus:

It's never what you want to hear: your computer has a virus. Graham says there are some crooks targeting computers in the Grand Strand area, but they want more than just your money.

Victims are getting emails and phone calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Apple. They are being told, there is a virus on their computer and they need to clean it out.

Graham says it's easy for these people to manipulate your fear and emotions to gain access to your computer. Here's how they do it. They'll tell you that your computer has a virus, and it'll cost you around $150 to repair it. So you'll give your credit card numbers over the phone or online. But according to the BBB, that money isn't what these criminals are really after. They want your personal information. BBB experts say, they'll send you a link saying it'll give them safe access to fix your computer. In reality, it's a corrupt link that will download a virus onto your computer and give hackers access to your passwords, internet history, and personal info.

“And then the next step will be is that scammer will sell your information to 100 other people. Because once you fall for it once, these people figure you'll fall for it again and again and again. And it's a never-ending cycle,” says Graham.

The tricky part is, there are some computer cleaning companies that do legitimate business this way by gaining remote access to your computer. But they only do so because you have to first reach out to them. That's the red flag. No real company ever cold calls people to try and clean out viruses.

Fake grant winnings:

Thieves are always looking for new ways to steal your money. Agents with the local BBB say right now people are trying to trick you in thinking that you won grant money.

First off, if you get a random phone call from someone saying it's your lucky day and you've won a grant, don't listen. Because you don't win grants.

Grants are designed mainly for non-profit organizations. They are reviewed and awarded a very specific purpose. It's not just free money. Leaders at the BBB say they have a case right now where someone is out $900 after falsely being told he won a grant and needed to wire that money first in order to get it.

The CEO with the BBB says the biggest problem is once you fall for it once, the crooks assume you will fall for it again and again. The crooks will change up the details but will always be fishing for the same thing: your money. But the bottom line is, if anyone ever plays on your emotions or urgency or asks you to wire money, immediately jot down the phone number and hang up. Then turn that number and information into the BBB, so someone there can investigate.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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