Ariel Berchtold, marketing manager for the Better Business Bureau, talked to residents and members of the Archer Heights Civic Association, warning them about a series of phone scams and fraudulent emails. Photo by Joe Boyle

Ariel Berchtold, marketing manager for the Better Business Bureau, talked to residents and members of the Archer Heights Civic Association, warning them about a series of phone scams and fraudulent emails. Photo by Joe Boyle

Warn residents about variety of scams

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By Joe Boyle

If it seems to good to be true, it usually is.

Ariel Berchtold, digital marketing manager for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Illinois, informed residents who attended the Archer Heights Civic Association meeting earlier this month that the old axiom usually proves to be true.

Berchtold told the audience at St. Richard Church Hall that employment fraud is one of the worst and widespread of recent scams to date. The average ages of people who are victims of this crime range from 18 to 34.

“They will try and get you with the money-making scam,” Berchtold said. “And what they will try and do is get your personal information.”

Berchtold warned residents to never give information about personal records over the phone, especially your Social Security number.

“Some scams want for someone to put up a certain price, like $19.95 and pay for gift cards,” Berchtold said. “This is a red flag. Then some people find out later that all their money is gone.”

Fake websites can be determined by looking at the information closely, Berchtold said. Some scam artists will take company names but it may have misspellings, which Berchtold said is another red flag.

While secret shopping is often legitimate, Berchtold informed the audience to be wary. Again, if they are requesting money up front or want your Social Security number given over the phone, it is better just to hang up, Berchtold said.

Home improvement scams are also common. Some con artists will come unannounced to a home offering to do a job. The tasks range from fixing gutters or front porches.

“Often they say they will do the job but they are on a tight schedule,” Berchtold said, pressuring the homeowners to make a quick decision. “They may begin the work but then later indicate that the job will cost more. At that point if you question their tactics, they just then leave and never come back and you are out the money you have already paid them. Most likely, you will not be able to contact them.”

Berchtold said the best option when someone approaches unannounced is to ask for their credentials and say you will contact them if needed. Perhaps just shutting the door may be the best way, Berchtold said.

“The best way to know if a business is legitimate is to look for the BBB sign. Contacts are on the website,” Berchtold said.

But Berchtold admitted that when checking on some questionable businesses, check on how old the information is. For instance, they may have a dated BBB logo in the website.

In a related scam, the utility ruse is most common.

“Someone may knock on your door and will begin to tell you that your utilities will soon be shut off,” Berchtold said, telling residents that would not happen.

The scam will often work because homeowners are caught off guard and may allow the scam artist access to the home.

“Don’t agree to anything on the spot,” Berchtold said. “Then contact the utility.”

Online shopping and fishing scams are most common among ages 25 to 44. This group is often vulnerable because they are looking to make more money and prone to fall for these scams.

Fishing scams occur when the thieves are able to access personal information online or even over the phone.

“Do not click on any unsolicited link,” Berchtold said. “If they are asking for information or money, again that’s a red flag.”

A frequent scam is someone contacting a person allegedly from the IRS stating that they owe money and need payment immediately.

“First of all, no one from the IRS will contact you in this manner,” Berchtold said. They won’t go on social medial or send an email. They will usually just use snail mail.”

Berchtold reminded residents on how to avoid being the victim of a scam. Never send money to someone that you have never met face-to-face. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages, she said.

“Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details,” Berchtold said. “Just because a website or email looks official does not mean it is. Even caller ID can be faked.”

She also said not to buy online unless the transaction is secure.

“Make sure the website has https in the URL,” Berchtold said. The extra s is for secure. Research the company first at BBB.org.”

Be cautious about what is shared on social media, Berchtold said.

“Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited,” Berchtold concluded.

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