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Be a hero, stop a scam with BBB and BPD

One of the biggest red flags we see in scams today is the request for money through untraceable payment methods.
One of the biggest red flags we see in scams today is the request for money through untraceable payment methods. TNS

Black Friday is behind us and Christmas is fast approaching, which puts us right in the middle of the holiday shopping season! At BBB we are constantly working to educate the public on how to be a savvy shopper and avoid scams. And this holiday season, we encourage you to take it a step further and keep an eye out for others falling victim to scams as well.

One of the biggest red flags we see in scams today is the request for money through untraceable payment methods. These could be wire transfers, prepaid cards or gift cards, which can be nearly impossible to recover once the funds are in the hands of scammers. A recent report to BBB Scam Tracker stated “Publishers Clearing House” sent a prize letter in the mail to a couple claiming they had won $75,000. But in order to receive the prize, they first needed to pay processing and delivery fees. These fees were to be paid via Walmart and Target gift cards in increments of $200. The couple ended up losing over $11,000 to these imposters.

To slow these scams before it’s too late, the Boise Police Department is enlisting the community’s help to spot and halt scams with the “Be a Hero. Stop a Scam” campaign. Edward Fritz, crime prevention supervisor for the Boise Police Department, wants front-line employees at local businesses to be on the lookout.

“If we can get the teller at a bank or the cashier at the store to recognize red flags, maybe they can stop someone from losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars,” said Fritz.

The main goal of the “Be a Hero” campaign is to educate and empower the frontline employees. Fritz describes a few things to look out for:

▪  Large money transfers, especially out of the country

▪  The customer is acting nervous or desperate

▪  The customer is on the phone being instructed to buy certain gift cards (Visa Pre-Paid, iTunes, Best Buy) in specific amounts

If you are out shopping and suspect something unusual is happening the best thing to do is speak up.

“Engage in conversation, ask questions” Fritz said. Having those casual conversations may raise red flags, and make the potential victim realize the situation they are in.

We can all fight scams together and make an effort to ensure our community has a little more joy this holiday season!

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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