Category Archives: Scams of the Month

Tips For Buying From the Facebook Marketplace.

By Aaron Reese

Facebook MarketplaceThe Facebook Marketplace is steadily growing in popularity. Like Craigslist, it displays a local collection of personal sale classified ads. One reason it’s probably gaining in popularity is that a seller must have a Facebook account. There’s no denying the overwhelming popularity of Facebook. Most people surf the site daily, and it’s awfully convenient to do some shopping while you’re there.

When a seller has a Facebook page, it’s comforting. It helps set a buyer at ease. If the seller’s Facebook page is public, you can see the person’s profile picture. You can look at his or her activity and friends, political rants, friendship quizzes and whatever else they are doing. Craigslist, on the other hand, all but guarantees anonymity with its auto-generated email addresses. It’s easy to see why the Facebook Marketplace might rival Craigslist. It’s a trust thing.

But not so fast.

We already know that Facebook is rife with scams. The BBB issues warnings about them all the time. We also publish articles about plenty of Craigslist scams. Both sites come with their own risks. With the advent of the Facebook Marketplace, we’re seeing a combination of two kinds of scams.

Facebook scams often exploit people’s trust in their Facebook friends list. Scammers will replicate someone’s page, stealing their pictures and sending friend requests to everyone on that person’s friends list. When the scammer gets a few approved friend requests on the fake profile, he’ll start hitting up people in his friends list for money. Sometimes scammers ask to borrow funds for personal reasons. Sometimes scammers tell people that they’ve won a sweepstakes. Sometimes they steer people to scam sites.

Scammers are pulling some of those same tricks to swindle people in the Marketplace. They’re creating fake profiles and claiming to have great deals on merchandise. Scammers are tricky, but you can look for a few red flags that reveal them for what they are.

F-150The deal is too good to be true. You’ll find some great deals in the Marketplace. People will try to get rid of unwanted stuff, but try to recognize when it’s not realistic. For example, I found a 2015 Ford F150, 4-door with chrome running boards on sale for $4,500. That truck is worth $31,000. No one, and I mean no one mind would sell it for so little. The best case scenario is that the seller truly wishes to unload it for so little money…because it’s stolen.

The photos are from the manufacturer’s promotional material. If a seller lists a home entertainment center, they should have pictures of the one they actually own. If they provide a picture with a pristine white background and professional multi-angle lighting, you can safely assume that the seller did not take the picture. You have no way of knowing what the entertainment center looks like, what condition it’s in or if it even really exists

The seller asks you to wire money. Sometimes sellers claim to be out of town. They might tell you that they’ve had other offers, but they’ll do you a favor and hold the item if you wire them some cash. Don’t do this. Ever.

The seller’s Facebook page has no activity. This is a pretty good indication that the profile is new to Facebook and probably fake. If the seller has a private profile, send a friend request so that you can see their history. If you don’t see anything older than a week, don’t buy from them.

You can find more about Facebook scams here and Classified Ad scams here.

If you’ve had experiences with scams in the Facebook Marketplace, let us know. Leave a comment or report it to BBB’s Scamtracker.

I Spied A Scam

By John Sparks

John SparksOur office receives countless calls about scams. We do our best to let our members know about things to watch out for. Did you know about BBB’s Scam Tracker?  BBB launched Scam Tracker  in 2015 to provide consumers across North America with a place to report scams and fraud, and to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities.

Here’s an example of a recent scam I got to experience with one of our members:

Scammer:  Ok, we’ll be happy to send you your money as soon as we receive your payment for the processing fee, ma’am.

Consumer:  And where do you need me to wire the money? What’s the location?

Scammer:  Sure, we just need that money sent by Western Union wire transfer to the Walmart in (insert name of an average town in Texas).

Hold on, maybe I should back up.

Continue reading

The “Can You Hear Me?” Scam

Author: Aaron Reese

The public provides the BBB information daily about scams they’ve encountered.

Sometimes the targets of these scams seek advice. Other times they just want to let us know what’s going on. I had the intention to write about the many scams that we hear about day in, day out, but one scam has so completely dominated 2017 that I’m just going to talk about it: the so-called “Can you hear me?” scam.

About a year ago, the BBB was overwhelmed by reports of tax collection scams, but an October raid on the scam’s Mumbai call center nearly eradicated it from existence. Before that, a full 25% of BBB scam reports in 2016 were about IRS imposters. The BBB will talk more about IRS scams soon, now that tax season is again upon us, but not today.

This year, reports from people getting calls that ask, “can you hear me?” make up more than 60% of all BBB scam reports.

PhoneIf you’ve watched the news, you’ve probably heard of this scam. Warnings about the scam have been issued by a few local news stations, attorneys general, and the Kansas City BBB.

The way it works is a scammer calls a target and quickly says something like, “I’m having trouble hearing you, can you hear me?” (We refer to people who are the targets of scams as “targets;” once they lose money, we call them victims.)

Frequently, as soon as the target answers “yes,” the caller hangs up. In most cases, the phone call is not actually from a person. The voice on the other end is just a recorded message. You can listen to two versions of the recording at www.bbb.org/canyouhearme, provided by Pindrop. In the Kansas City area, the recorded caller most often says “This is Josh from customer service.”

The BBB is often asked, “why would anyone want to record my voice?” and “what are they doing with it?” Both good questions and, while we’re not exactly sure what scammers are doing with recorded voices, we’re painfully aware of what they can do with them.

For years, scammers have been calling businesses with fake sales pitches and recording conversations. They call offering toner, printer cartridges, office supplies, etc. At some point during the phone call, the scammer gets the business representative to say “yes.” The target usually confirms that the caller has reached the correct business or verifies their address. People instinctively answer honestly when they know the answer to a yes or no question.

The scammer calls the business owner weeks or months later and demands an exorbitant amount of money. In between phone calls to the business, the scammer has doctored a recording, making it seem like the first representative agreed to buy something. The scammer threatens the business owner with a lawsuit if they don’t pay.

This scam method can apply to a household.
The BBB spoke with KSHB reporter Ali Hoxie about a woman she interviewed who was targeted by the “can you hear me” scam. The caller originally spoke to the wife of the household and got her to say “yes.” When the scammer called back, he asked to speak to the husband. Ms. Hoxie intercepted the phone call.

It’s more than likely that this scam is also a simple way to confirm that the phone number they’ve called is in operation and that a live person answers the phone. Scammers buy lead lists just like any legitimate business and knowing that someone picks up the phone is valuable information. Because unsolicited robocalls are illegal in the United States, we already know that whoever is collecting recorded voices will not use them for legitimate purposes.

Any consumer whose active phone line is added to a black market lead list can expect a drastic increase in scam phone calls and texts.

Sure, this is all speculation, but what we do know for sure is that some shady group is making illegal pre-recorded phone calls with the intention of eliciting a “yes” from targets. And no one operates a massive nationwide scheme without an endgame. They have one. We’re just not privy to it… yet.

If you receive a call like those described above, be sure to check the BBB’s tips on how to handle them. The best way is to hang up!