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BBB TIPS, A COLUMN BY THE BBB OF NORTHERN INDIANA

BBB warns of scammers pretending to be needy children groups, airlines

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 12:01 am

This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.

Opportunist scammers lurk at every corner during this season. Be especially careful about who you deal with on the Internet. A woman reported recently being taken for $4,500, but this didn't happen in one instance. Month by month, she was paying $900 to help take care of needy children in Nigeria, or so she thought.

The last contact she had with the scammer, she was informed that they had a surprise for her and mailed her a check for $2,350. This was not a bonus check of any sort, although it may have been presented to her as such. It was a counterfeit check, designed to make even more money from her. The gimmick was that they wanted her to deposit the check into her account and then send a portion of it through check transfer (Western Union, Money gram, etc.) to an undisclosed location, to pay for taxes or other miscellaneous reasons the scammer comes up with.

"This is a bait-and-switch tactic that scammers use," says Mike Coil/CEO of BBB of Northern Indiana. "The scam artists go to great lengths to make these checks look authentic. They'll add a watermark, addresses, phone numbers, and names of real companies located in the United States. When the recipient puts the check in the bank and sends away the money, that's when the person gets hooked. The check bounces, and the recipient is out the amount of the check, late fees, and any money sent off."

Should you receive such an offer, check with your BBB of Northern Indiana to make sure the charity is legitimate. BBB has information as to whether a charity meets our 20 standards of accountability, including data on where contributions go.

Award notification from US Airlines!

If you receive a letter claiming you've won two round-trip tickets courtesy of American Airlines or US Airlines, don't be fooled. This is a scam. Consumers nationwide are reaching out to their BBBs to try to decipher the letters.

Here's how the scam works:

Consumers receive the letter either by fax or through the mail. The letters have no return address and contain a logo of either US Airlines or American Airlines. Most of the letters appear to come from Phoenix. The message typically reads as follows:

“NOTE: You must respond no later than XXXX.

Dear XXXX,

I am pleased to inform you that you have qualified for an award of 2 roundtrip airline tickets. Congratulations. These tickets are valid for travel anywhere in the Continental U.S. from any major international airport. The retail value of this award is up to $1,298.00. Certain restrictions apply. We have attempted contacting you several times without success. This is our last attempt. If we do not hear from you soon, we may need to issue the ticket vouchers to the alternate.

Please call me today at 1-866-546-1767 (or another number).

Regards, XXXX, Vice President”

US Airlines is not even a real company, but resembles the real United Airlines. With many consumers reporting these letters, scammers have started using American Airlines' name. The letters are NOT from the real airline. This is a phishing scam attempting to acquire your personal information.

If you receive a letter such as this and are questioning it's legitimacy, reach out to your local BBB or directly to American Airlines.

Before you make a purchase, go to the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana website at www.neindiana.bbb.org or call 423-4433 or toll-free 1-800-552-4631 to check out a business.