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Better Business Bureau warns of snow jobs of scammers

Among the holiday traditions for the Better Business Bureau is listing the year’s 12 most frequently reported scams.

Most of them have been around for a long time and there’s no reason to believe their perpetrators are going to stop anytime soon. So we continue down the frosty lane of rip-offs, with three more of our 12 scams of Christmas.

Scam no. 9: Calls from your own phone number

The practice of “spoofing” has allowed scammers to render our caller ID phone features almost completely useless.

Computer programs enable crooks to make it appear as though a phone call is from a familiar business, a government agency or even from you. Many have reported seeing their own name and number or that of a family member on their caller ID screen. When they answer, it becomes obvious that it’s an automated “robo call.”

In most cases the caller is phishing for your private credit or banking information so they can steal your identity or drain your funds. When you get that call from yourself, or any other unsolicited call that wants you to “verify your account number,” just hang up. Do not press any buttons as instructed by the caller.

Remember to never give out your personal information over the phone unless you are making the call and are sure you are calling a trustworthy party.

Scam no. 8: Catfishing

The scam called “catfishing” gets its name from the 2010 movie “Catfish,” in which someone is fooled into believing in a false identity in an online relationship.

Romance scams in which a person claims to be interested in someone they met through an online dating service – but is assuming a fake identity just to get money from the victim – fall into the “catfishing” category. It is an old scam updated into the computer age and given a new name.

Here are warning signs that someone you met through an online dating service is working the catfish scam on you:

▪ They want to talk or chat on an outside e-mail or messaging service. That way the dating site has no record of the encounter and the scammer can proceed in their efforts to defraud you.

▪ They play on your emotions. Of course, romance is a strong emotion and opens you up to vulnerability. Scammers know this all too well.

▪ They claim to be from this country, but are living, traveling or working abroad, perhaps in the military. They can claim to be called away suddenly so they cannot meet you in person.

▪ They ask for money or credit card information. Sick relatives, stolen wallets or airfare can serve as their excuse. They may ask you to wire money, at first in small amounts, growing larger over time.

▪ They send e-mails containing links to third-party websites. Though the link may look credible, it can be to a virus-installing website.

Scam no. 7: Click baiting

“Click baiting” is a scam that uses celebrity names or sensationalism – such as gory videos – to lure you into clicking on a link that is actually to a site that installs malware on your computer. Tragic news stories like the missing Malaysian plane or the death of Robin Williams are often used as click bait.

Remember to never download videos from suspicious sites. Use official news or video sites, searching on those sites for the subject you are interested in. Don’t fall for online promotions that use words like “shocking,” “exclusive” or “sensational.”

Unsolicited e-mails or social media messages should be ignored or deleted. Don’t take the bait that can hook your computer into a scammer’s murky waters.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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