BBB Names Top Ten Scams of 2011

Press release by Reanna Smith-Hamblin

BBB Names Top Ten Scams of 2011

BBB investigates thousands of scams every year! Our new Scam Source (www.bbb.org/scam) is a comprehensive resource on scam investigations from BBBs around the country, with tips from BBB, law enforcement and others. You can sign up to receive our Scam Alerts by email, and you can also be a scam detective yourself by reporting scams you’ve discovered. We’ve divided scams up into nine major categories and picked the top scam in each, plus our Scam of the Year.

Top Job Scam

BBB sees lots of secret shopper schemes, work-from-home scams, and other phony job offers, but the worst job-related scam can dash your hopes and steal your identity. Emails, websites and online applications all look very professional, and the candidate is even interviewed for the job (usually over the phone) and then receives an offer. In order to start the job, however, the candidate has to fill out a “credit report” or provide bank information for direct deposit of their “paychecks.” The online forms are nothing more than a way to capture sensitive personal data – and, of course, there is no job, either.

Top Sweepstakes and Lottery Scam
You’ve won a whole lot of money, and in order to claim it you have to send us a smaller amount of money. Keep it confidential! This year’s top sweepstakes scam was undoubtedly the email claiming to be from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announcing that the recipient was the winner of $1 million from the popular social networking site. These kinds of scams often use celebrities or other famous names to make their offer seem more genuine. If you aren’t sure, don’t click on the link. Go directly to the homepage of the company mentioned. If they are really giving away $1 million, there will be some kind of announcement on their website.

Top Social Media/Online Dating Scam
On the Internet, it’s easy to pretend to be someone you are not. Are you really friends with all of your “Friends” on Facebook? Do you have a lot of personal information on a dating site? With so much information about us online, a scammer can sound like they know you. There are tons of ways to use social media for scams, but one this year really stands out because it appeals to our natural curiosity…and it sounds like it’s coming from a friend. Viral videos claiming to show everything from grisly footage of Osama bin Laden’s death to the latest celebrity hijinks have shown up on social media sites, often looking as if they have been shared by a friend. When you click on the link, you are prompted to “upgrade your Flash player,” but the file you end up downloading contains a worm that logs into your social media account, sends similar messages to your friends, and searches for your personal data.

Top Home Improvement Scam

Always near the top of BBB complaint data are home improvement contractors who often leave your home worse than they found it. They usually knock on your door with a story or a deal – the roofer who can spot some missing shingles on your roof, the paver with some leftover asphalt who can give you a great deal on driveway resealing. The worst are those who move in after a natural disaster, taking advantage of desperate homeowners who need immediate help and may not be as suspicious as they would be under normal circumstances. Find a contractor you can trust at www.bbb.org.

Top Check Cashing Scam

Two legitimate companies – Craig’s List and Western Union – are used for an inordinate amount of scamming these days, and especially check cashing scams. Here’s how it works: Someone contacts you via a Craig’s List posting, maybe for a legitimate reason like buying your old couch or perhaps through a scam like hiring you as a secret shopper. Either way, they send you a check for more than the amount they owe you, and they ask
you to deposit it into your bank account and then wire the difference via Western Union.
When the original check bounces, you are out whatever money you wired…and you’re still stuck with the old couch.

Top Phishing Scam
“Phishing” is when you receive a suspicious phone call asking for personal information or an email that puts a virus on your computer to hunt for your data. It’s almost impossible to avoid them if you have a telephone or an email account. But the most pernicious phishing scam this year disguised itself as official communication from NACHA – the National Automated Clearing House Association – which facilitates the secure transfer of billions of electronic transactions every year. The email claims one of your transactions did not go through, and it hopes you react quickly and click on the link before thinking it through. It may take you to a fake banking site “verify” your account information, or it may download malware to infiltrate your computer.

Top Identity Theft Scam
There are a million ways to steal someone’s identity. This one has gotten so prevalent that many hotels are posting warnings in their lobby. Here’s how it works: You get a call in your hotel room in the middle of the night. It’s the front desk clerk, very apologetic, saying their computer has crashed and they need to get your credit card number again, or they must have gotten the number wrong because the transaction won’t go through, and could you please read the number back so they can fix the problem? Scammers are counting on you being too sleepy to catch on that the call isn’t from the hotel at all, but from someone outside who knows the direct-dial numbers for the guest rooms.

Top Financial Scam
In challenging economic times, many people are looking for help getting out of debt or hanging on to their home, and almost as many scammers appear to take advantage of desperate situations. Because the federal government announced or expanded several mortgage relief programs this year, all kinds of sound-alike websites have popped up to try to fool consumers into parting with their money. Some sound like a government agency, or even part of BBB or other nonprofit consumer organizations. Most ask for an upfront fee to help you deal with your mortgage company or the government (services you could easily do yourself for free), and almost all leave you in more debt.

Top Sales Scam
The Internet has introduced a whole new way to rip people off. Penny auctions are very popular because it seems like you can get something useful – cameras, computers, etc. – for way below retail. But you pay a small fee for each bid (usually 50₵ to $1.00) and if you aren’t the winner, you lose that money. Winners often are not even the top bidder, just the last bidder when time runs out. Although not all penny auction sites are scams, some are being investigated as online gambling. BBB recommends you treat them the same way you would legal gambling in a casino – know exactly how the bidding works, set a limit for yourself, and be prepared to walk away before you go over that limit.

Scam of the Year
The BBB phishing scam! Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from BBB. The subject line says something like “Complaint Against Your Business,” and the instructions tell the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If the recipient does either, a virus is launched on their computer…a virus that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information. BBB is working with security consultants and federal law enforcement to track down the source of these emails, and has already shut down dozens of hijacked websites. Anyone who has opened an attachment or clicked on a link should run a complete system scan using reputable anti-virus software. If your computer is networked with others, all machines on the network should be scanned, as well.

Kevin Dean Receives Citizen of the Year

Story by Jo-Ann Jennings found on BixbyBulletin.com

Although it was necessary to know the password, Roaring 20’s, to get into Friday night’s speak-easy Bixby Metro Chamber gala, that didn’t seem to hold back the sparkling crowd and dandy dressers.

The highlight of the evening was learning who had been named to receive various annual awards.

And the winners are: New Business of the Year, Consumer Pulse Marketing; Small Business of the Year, Grand Bank; Medium Business of the Year, Cox Communications; Favorite Business of the Year, Doc’s Country Mart; Excellence in Education, Dr. Delana McManus; Progressive Leadership in City Government, Heath Wright; Volunteer of the Year, Blake Moffatt; Citizen of the Year, Kevin  Dean, and Chairman’s Award, Russ Smith.

Named to the President’s Circle were: Dr. Steve Greene, Ciara Arnold, Ron Bussert, Mayor Ray Bowen, Jen Cook, Kevin Dean, Jeff Frable, Tim Jenney, Jo-Ann Jennings, Susan McGinnis, Victoria Oltmann, and Trish Richey.

Bixby Schools Build to Keep Up with Growth

Story by Jo-Ann Jennings found on BixbyBulletin.com

It’s difficult to make a circle of Bixby city limits without seeing new school buildings in various stages of progress.

Ready by fall of 2012 is a new middle school, which will positively affect Brassfield and Central Elementary.

“The new middle school on Mingo is right on schedule,” says Dr. Kaylin Coody, associate superintendent of Bixby school district.

Seventh and eighth grade students will be carrying their new notebooks and pens into new digs.

What the community knows as Bixby Middle School now will become Central Intermediate. Fourth and fifth grade students will be moving out of Brassfield Fifth and Sixth Grade Center, as will the fourth-graders from Central Elementary. Counting North Intermediate on 121st Street, Bixby will then have two intermediate schools, also in the fall of 2012.

Central Elementary in downtown Bixby and North Elementary at 121st Street will hold only first, second and third grade students.

“There will be more room at Central,” Coody said. “It’s exciting!”

Coody said Northeast Elementary on 131st Street will not open next fall as originally planned.

“There was a significant…

Read full article here.

Renovation Begins at City Hall

Story by Jo-Ann Jennings found on BixbyBulletin.com

Excitement prevails at Bixby City Hall as renovation begins, particularly for the Bixby Police Department.

At the Jan. 9 Bixby City Council meeting, City Manager Doug Enevoldsen announced that work had begun that morning.

“There will be a complete renovation of the upstairs,” he said, “and an expansion of the police department.”

City Planner Erik Enyart said to be precise, the renovation will include: structural improvements throughout City Hall to meet current code requirements; refinishing and retrofitting the second floor for police department operations; expanding and upgrading the first floor rest rooms to meet ADA standards; and renovation of the courtroom and council chambers.

The council also approved…

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City of Bixby Awaits Approval on Amnesty Program

Story by Jo-Ann Jennings found on BixbyBulletin.com

Subject to the approval of The Honorable Tamera A. Childers, presiding judge of the municipal court, City of Bixby, a proposed amnesty program was presented to Bixby City Council Monday night, January 23, at the regular council meeting.

City Attorney, Patrick Boulden, who presented the amnesty program to council, surmised that Childers would approve of the program, or tweak it, following court on Tuesday night, January 24. Council accepted the proposal with a 4-0 vote based on Childers’ approval.

Boulden told the council that the amnesty program, proposed for Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, through Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, would allow any person with outstanding City of Bixby municipal warrants to voluntarily appear before the Bixby municipal court clerk during regular office hours without being subject to arrest and immediate imprisonment on warrants issued by the Bixby municipal court.

The program was proposed in response to action taken by the council previously to contract with a debt collection agency to collect past due and outstanding fines and costs. The contract was finalized on Jan. 3, 2012. “For those collections,” says Boulden, “the agency will receive a fee equal to 35 percent of the fines and costs collected, and the defendants will be obligated to pay that amount in addition to their fines and costs. If defendants avail themselves of the city’s amnesty program, they may not only avoid arrest, late fees and court costs, they may also avoid the collection agency’s 35 percent fee.”

Three major advantages…

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Ward 5 Filing Opens February 6

Story from Staff Reports found on BixbyBulletin.com

Candidates for Ward 5 on the Bixby City Council will be able to file their declarations of candidacy Feb. 6-8 at the Tulsa County Election Board office.

The Ward 5 seat is currently held by Dennis Loudermilk.

Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The election board office is located at 555 N. Denver Ave. in Tulsa.

Only voters in Ward 5 will cast ballots in the general election, scheduled April 3. There will be no primary.

For information on filing, contact the election board office at 918-596-5780.

Letter to Governor Fallin on Main Street Fairness Act

The Bixby Metro Chamber of Commerce has completed its 2012 Legislative agenda, which outlines support for the passing of the Main Street Fairness Act. This act, if passed, will support fair and equal treatment of local businesses by allowing collection of sales tax from online sales and preventing further erosion of our local merchants’ operations.

A letter is being sent to Governor Fallin describing in detail the importance of passing this act. We are currently collecting signatures to be added to the letter. If you would like your name to be added to this letter please send your permission to add your name to the letter to krystalc@bixbychamber.com.

Click here to view the letter.

Yale Avenue Widening Project

Story from Staff Reports found on BixbyBulletin.com

Tulsa County, City of Tulsa and Saint Francis officials will break ground on the Yale Avenue widening project on Tuesday, January 10 at 2:30 p.m.

The project will widen Yale Avenue from 61st Street to 71st Street from four lanes to six lanes.  The project cost is estimated at $3.5 million and will be split 50/50 between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County.  City funds have been used for engineering and materials, while county funds will go toward manpower and equipment.  The Tulsa County Highway Construction Division will perform the road construction.

The completion date is projected as July, 2012.

Bixby Schools Participate in Josh Stevens Foundation “Be Kind” Program

Story from Staff Reports of BixbyBulletin.com

Schools in the Bixby District have chosen to participate in the Josh Stevens Foundation “Be Kind” Program. Josh Stevens was a boy who tragically lost his life but who has been memorialized for what he was best known for, his kindness. He was always practicing random acts of kindness, and his family has created this foundation to honor his legacy by setting an example for all students to follow.

Students at Bixby North Elementary, North Intermediate, Central, Brassfield and Bixby Middle School will be encouraged to be kind to other students, staff and visitors at each of their schools and in their day-to-day lives. If they are “caught” being kind, they will be rewarded with a special Josh Stevens kindness bracelet as well as accolades from staff and students alike. The foundation will provide each staff member in all of the schools (including bus drivers, cafeteria staff and janitorial staff) with special “Be Kind” T-shirts to remind students to always think about what it means to be a kind person and to continue to make a difference in their school community.

Students will…

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Senator Mazzei Promotes Education for the 2012 Session

Story by Staff Reports found on BixbyBulletin.com

Supporting education will continue to be a top priority for Sen. Mike Mazzei in the upcoming legislative session.   Mazzei, a Tulsa Republican, said education remains key to continuing efforts to create new jobs and expand Oklahoma’s economy.

“We know for a fact that there is a direct connection between states that have the highest education levels and the highest per capita income,” Mazzei said.  “Investments in education now will make all the difference in the years to come.”

Mazzei said he fully supports flexible spending benefits for educators as well as restoring the $5,000 bonus for national board certified teachers.

“When the State Board shifted the calculation of flexible benefits funding from the contractual year to the fiscal year, educators were concerned that they could wind up getting shortchanged,” Mazzei said.  “They need assurances that those benefits will be funded for every month of the year.  Likewise, educators who have gone that extra mile to receive national board certification should be awarded their $5,000 bonus as promised.”

Mazzei, who is…

Read full article here.