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Avoiding Covid-19 Related Scams

By BBB Serving Central East Texas, BBB.org Start With Trust®

As consumers and businesses adapt to extended stay-at-home orders, scammers likewise adjust their tactics to take advantage. And as April is National Secure Your Identity month, Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) warns consumers about an increasing number of Covid-19 related scams aimed at compromising personally identifiable and account information.

Many of these are old scams tailored to fit Covid-19. Since the outbreak, BBB Scam Tracker has received 357 scams filed with reported losses of $46,861.

“Times of uncertainty are ideal times for scammers to prey on fear,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “The bottom-line is don’t respond to a text, email or phone call from a sender that is unfamiliar, even if it looks official or from a respected agency or official.”

BBB advises consumers to be on the lookout for the following Covid-19 related scams:

Employment Scams. Many in the East Texas area were laid off or furloughed recently and may be looking for work online in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns. Fraudsters find ways to take advantage of this by posting phony work-from-home jobs promising remote work with good pay and no interview required. These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing. The common thread with bogus employment scams is that they will require you to pay upfront for training, equipment, or they will “overpay” you and ask you to wire back the difference.

Phony Cures and Fake Masks. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of people receiving emails and messages claiming that, for a price, they can buy products the government is supposedly keeping secret – ways to prevent or cure coronavirus. Medical experts are working hard to find a coronavirus vaccine, but none currently exists.

Economic Impact Payment (Stimulus Check) Scams. As soon as stimulus packages were announced and approved, scammers quickly got to work sending out fake economic impact checks and asking consumers to pay fees to get their money earlier than what was promised. These claims are false and open consumers to the risk of identity theft and outright theft of the funds in their bank account.

Phishing Scams. Several people are now working from home and con artists have stepped up their phishing scams. They may claim to be from an official department of the employer to offer IT support or claim the company-issued computer has a virus. They may use scare tactics, stating the computer will crash if you don’t act immediately, all in an attempt to gain access to your computer remotely or to your personal or company’s information.

Government Impersonation. Another common phishing scam brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is fake emails and text messages claiming the government needs you to take an “online coronavirus test” by clicking a link they provide. No such test currently exists but if you click on the link, scammers can download malware onto your computer and gain access to your sensitive personal information.

Mandatory Testing. BBB has received reports from seniors reporting that they are receiving text messages from scammers posing as the U.S. Department of Health, about taking a mandatory online COVID-19 test in order to receive the recently approved stimulus payment. Others are receiving emails stating they qualify for a payment and to click on a link to claim a check.

“Never make uneducated decisions, click on links in unsolicited emails or links, or provide any personal or account information to people you don’t know,” Mills said.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer during this outbreak, go to bbb.org. Please go to bbb.org or call 903-581-5704 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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TJC Connect LIVE offers Sessions on Admissions, Financial Aid and More

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TJC Connect LIVE offers Daily Virtual Info Sessions on Admissions, Financial Aid and More

Tyler Junior College is hosting free, virtual information sessions to help students and parents engage with TJC staff and get the answers they need when they can’t visit the College in person.

TJC Connect LIVE, held at 2 p.m. weekdays on the Zoom video-conferencing platform, covers a variety of topics such as admissions, advising, career planning, financial aid, Presidential Honors, the TJC Promise, and a student-led panel.

Sessions are held in real-time, allowing students and parents to ask questions and interact with TJC staff and students.

Schedule of daily sessions:

• Monday, April 20: Admissions

• Tuesday, April 21: Career Planning

• Wednesday, April 22: Financial Aid

• Thursday, April 23: Scholarships

• Friday, April 24: Admissions

• Monday, April 27: Admissions

• Tuesday, April 28: Student Panel

• Wednesday, April 29: Financial Aid

• Thursday, April 30: Presidential Honors Program

• Friday, May 1: Admissions

To register, go to TJC.edu/connectlive.

ben wheeler

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BBB: Income Sources Amid Stay-at-Home Orders

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

Government mandates across East Texas have caused local businesses to close their doors and establish remote work procedures. While many have been able to remain operational, others result in job losses. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas provides consumers with resources for supplemental income opportunities and local job postings to mitigate lost income.

“Last week, the Department of Labor reported an increase of three million unemployment claims,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “This is the highest number reported since 1982 when there were 695,000 claims.”

Significant job cuts have affected retail and service industries, but some are adjusting to social distancing by providing alternate work for employees such as restaurants moving servers to takeout orders. However,  If these opportunities were not available for you, here are some tips on how to start looking for remote work or other job opportunities.

Assess your skills. If you worked as a sales associate or server, consider using your customer service skills to work for a call center remotely. Consider if your previous specialty can be done remotely for another company.

Do your homework. Search for companies or businesses which are hiring in your area. If you consider companies outside of your area, make sure you perform proper research on that company, as there are many fraudulent opportunities online.

Update your resume. Be sure to include your interest in working remotely and remember to add your knowledge or experience working with web conferencing/communication tools.

Look for job postings or staff agencies. Consider staffing agencies in your area which can match your skills with a hiring organization. If using an online service, be on the lookout for fake companies. Also reach out to local grocery companies, restaurants, an essential business, or any retail establishment which may be offering delivery as a new service. Remember to do thorough research on any company you are interested in working for.

Use freelancing job sites. Some sites like Upwork provide individuals with remote work opportunities such as translating, writing, designing and more.

Start with trust. Before going to any job site or answering any ad, research the company’s reputability on bbb.org. Avoid job opportunities which require you to pay upfront fees or will not conduct a face to face interview, even if it is via web conferencing software. Never provide banking or social security numbers until you have been hired for a legitimate position.

Please remember, that if you are considering working out of the home during this season to practice the safety guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the safety of yourself, those you love, and those you will be in contact with.

For more tips on how to be a savvy business owner, go to bbb.org/smallbusiness. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

ABOUT BBB®: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB serving Central East Texas opened their Tyler office in 1985 and serves 19 counties in East Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Spirits Run Wild

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

By Gini Rainey

We are now into the ninth day of our Stay-At-Home Order and it doesn’t get any easier, folks. One thing I’ve determined though is that our house isn’t haunted, which is different from my business’s office, located in a 1945-vintage, one-time fire station for the city of Tyler. The previous owner, my former boss, bought the building in 1985 and renovated it, turning it into a car dealership. Unfortunately, the ghost didn’t get the memo. 

That boss, Jim, is an avid collector of all things baseball and fireman/fire station related and the office was pretty much a mini-museum with a ton of collectible of battery-operated trucks and cars. It wasn’t unusual for a lot of them to become activated on their own and that’s not even talking about the things that would go bump in the night. I can hear you skeptics out there right now shaking your heads and saying “no way!” But there came that day when we couldn’t take it anymore and went through all of the offices and removed all the batteries from all of the toys.  Guess what? Those ghosts didn’t need no stinking batteries! The sirens kept on going off! 

All of that changed – or so we thought – when my business partner and I bought the dealership from Jim and Jim and all of the toys moved out. Things were nice and quiet for a while until we noticed that the ceiling fan/light in Jim’s old office would turn on and off at will. We would notice it on – fan blowing full bore – turn it off – leave the room and come back later and it would be back on again.  Interesting folks, those dead firemen, so we just learned to live with them. But I was just thinking, ever since my business partner got a dog and started bringing him to work with him, the strange stuff has stopped happening. 

Which brings me to a very interesting and unique book “Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook” written by Mary Ann Winkowski and David Powers and published by Clerisy Press in 2011. Ms. Winkowski, a paranormal investigator, has received some notoriety through her connection with CBS’s Ghost Whisperer and has met and conversed with hundreds of earthbound spirits. Her book is the result of several conversations with spirits in reference to, believe it or not, recipes given to her from those spirits. Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, this book is great reading and is half recipes and half the background behind the recipes. I promise, they will make your paranormal senses tingle! 

One such recipe for Cauliflower Soup was corrected from the afterlife by the spirit who had hand-stitched it on a set of kitchen towels while living. A lady had purchased them at a farmhouse estate sale and had contacted the author about some paranormal activity. While talking with the spirit, Ms. Winkowski learned she had not crossed over because she wanted to correct an error in the recipe for the Cauliflower Soup.  One of the ingredients was 2-3 eggs, but the spirit wanted the new owner to know it was supposed to read 2-3 egg yolks 

For a spirit-filled meal, here’s that recipe: Cook 1 medium cauliflower in salted boiling water until tender and reserve 6-8 flowerets. Then mash the rest, combine with 6 cups hot chicken stock and thicken with 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon butter that’s been stirred into a paste and diluted until smooth. Let simmer and beat 2-3 egg yolks with 1/2 cup cream and add to the cauliflower mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with the reserved flowerets and croutons and chives. 

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