Scammers ‘name-jack’ to bilk consumers

BBB issues alert on scammers who pretend to be banks and other companies to steal money

COLUMBUS —The Better Business Bureau is urging people to be alert for scams in which legitimate businesses’ names are being hijacked to rip off consumers.

Officials with the BBB in Columbus that serves Southwest Georgia say the scammers have resorted to “name-jacking” legitimate companies because the names used lend a sense of legitimacy and because the Internet has made it easier for consumers to uncover bogus companies and organizations.

One of the scams involves loans and pre-paid cards. An Internet user is directed to legitimate-looking websites that are actually phishing sites set up by the scammers, where the individual applies for a loan. The applicant then receives a call from someone pretending to be involved with a real financial institution saying the applicant has been approved.

To receive the loan, the caller says, the applicant must place a certain amount of funds on a pre-paid card and provide the PIN (personal identification number) for that card to the caller, the BBB said. The scammer then may try to get the individual to place more money on the card, saying the fee had gone up, the deposit requirement had increased, insurance for the loan had to be purchased and other reasons.

Once the scammer has the PIN, the money is drained from the account and the loan proves to be non-existent.

A second scam, BBB officials say, involves “name-jacking” on job ads placed on various classifieds and websites. Individuals are asked to pay a fee to secure employment with a legitimate business or organization that actually has no connection to the advertisement. The fee disappears and the job never existed, BBB officials said.

To avoid being scammed by someone pretending to be a legitimate company, BBB officials suggest that consumers:

— Go to a physical location of a financial institution to apply for a loan or go directly to their website; do not use “middle man” websites;

— Keep in mind that scammers can easily manipulate Caller ID by spoofing a number (Caller ID may indicate the call is from a real bank or other business, but that is not the case.);

— Legitimate banking institutions will not ask you to pre-pay fees, particularly not via a pre-paid card;

— Legitimate companies will not ask for any payments to provide employment;

— Check companies on bbb.org. The organization places alerts on Business Reviews when bureau officials become aware of a company name and/or product that is being misused.