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How You (A Student) Can Save More Money, Cha-Ching

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Tips to Help First Year College Students Make Educated Decisions

As first year college students go through a lot of growing pains as they face new challenges and opportunities. From figuring out which major to choose, learning how to juggle work and school and just living on your own for the first time, scam artists lie in wait hoping they students make a mistake. BBB reminds first year students to make wise life choices by making educated decisions.

“First year college students are exposed to all kinds of new possibilities”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “Unfortunately, this also makes them vulnerable to scam artists who make attempts to take advantage of their lack of life experiences.”

BBB sheds some light on the following scams which target those attending college:

Accommodation scams. Rental owners are supposedly governed by strict controls over the conditions in which they maintain their properties, however, there are unscrupulous landlords that don’t play by the rules. You want to make sure you actually go to the property before putting any money down and make sure you’re getting what you expect.

Then, there are also non-existent rentals. They take your down payment, and when you arrive, the person you gave the money to doesn’t even own the property, or the property doesn’t exist. Before providing any form of payment, visit the property and research the property management company by going to bbb.org.

Finding a place to work. If the job you’re looking at involves door to door selling, like selling magazines, cleaning supplies, handyman work, or even raising money for charity, you want to make sure you check the company out before you begin working for them, because in some cases, the product doesn’t exist, or the charity is bogus, or the handyman really doesn’t do the work you’re selling, which means you’re not likely going to get paid.

Steer clear from any job that sends you a check to deposit, then wants you to wire funds or put funds to a prepaid card. The problem is, the check is fake or it might be a forged check from an actual bank account (but not from the company on the check), and you could be charged with money laundering if you cash it.

Paying for school. Be on the lookout for phony scholarships and grants who are just trying to get your account information to wipe it out, not to deposit money for school as they claim.

Paying for anything. Some identity thieves set up fake credit card application booths luring students to give away very personal information in exchange for a t shirt or an umbrella or something like that. It’s basically an easy way to steal information. If you want to get a credit card, go to the bank and apply for one.  

Be safe on Wi-Fi hotspots. Using Wi-Fi on an unsecured network puts you at risk for identity theft. A lot of students use public places to study, and you want to make sure you use encryption soft ware and password protection to block identity thieves when doing homework in these Wi-Fi hotspots and don’t log onto your bank account or other sites that contain personal information.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

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Keep an Eye Out: School “Fundraisers” That Will Drain Your Funds

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Be on the Lookout for Youth Donation Scams

With the school year just underway for East Texas schools, scammers will stand outside supermarkets or other neighborhood stores asking for donations to help the local football team, band, or other cause. They may even knock on doors in your neighborhood. Most often, these fundraising efforts are legitimate and go towards a worthwhile cause, but in some cases, they are merely a way to rip-off charitable citizens.

“It’s important not to fall prey to an emotional appeal before donating to any charitable cause without first doing your homework”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “With a simple phone call to the school, or by going to the district’s website you should be able to verify the legitimacy of a ‘school fundraiser’.”  

BBB provides the following donation tips in mind the next time you consider giving to any charity or cause:

  • Watch Out for High Pressure-Solicitations. Do not give in to excessive pressure for an immediate donation. Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on describing what the charity will actually do to meet their organizational goals.
  • Protect your Personal Information. Never give your credit card number or other personal information in response to an unsolicited telephone call, email or personal message on your social media profile from someone that is soliciting a donation.
  • Ask Questions. Do not hesitate to ask for written information that describes the charity’s programs, community reputation, privacy policy and financial standing. If a charity is reluctant to answer these reasonable questions, it should be considered a red flag.
  • Avoid Giving Cash. Cash donations are difficult to track, making it harder for consumers to get tax deductions and easier for scammers to go unnoticed. It is best to use a credit or debit card which offers consumers protection in case a problem arises. If you must write a check, make it out to the name of the charitable organization, never to the individual collecting the donation.
  • Be Wary of Imitations. Keep an eye out for fake charities that imitate the name and style of well-known organizations in order to potentially steal personal information such as credit card numbers.
  • Confirm Text Code Numbers. If you plan to donate by text message, confirm the text code number directly with the charity. Also, keep in mind that text message donations are typically not immediate. Depending on your cell phone provider, the donation may not show up on your bill for 30 to 90 days.
  • Find out about Tax Deductibility in Advance. For your donation to be tax deductible, the charity must be tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Visit IRS Publication 78 on irs.gov for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions that are deductible as charitable gifts.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

About BBB:

For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 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. There are 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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Online Dating Scams Give Love a Bad Name

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Over the years, the internet has become a major resource for people looking for love. According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, 15 percent of U.S. adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. With more people using online dating, scammers are taking advantage by creating compelling backstories, full-fledged identities then trick you into falling for somebody who doesn’t exist. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) urges consumers to be on the lookout for scams being populated on online dating websites and on social networks.

“The romance scam is very similar to other types of consumer fraud, however, in this case the scammer’s main tool is affection and eventually love,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Central East Texas. “They use this feigned devotion to swindle thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars from their prey”.

Targeting single and widowed men and women, love scammers are setting up fake profiles committing anywhere from three to twelve months to woo their victims into emptying their pockets. Often times scammers claim to be in the military or working overseas as a reason to not meet you in person.

BBB warns consumers of the following love scam operator tactics:

  • They claim to be from the U.S., but they are overseas for business or family matters.
  • They profess their love at warp speed, usually within 24-48 hours.
  • They send gifts within the first few weeks of contact both to endear their victims to them as well as to confirm their victim’s address.
  • Many claim to have lost a spouse in a tragic accident.
  • They insist you keep the relationship a secret.

BBB offers the following tips to help avoid heartbreak:

  • Never send money to someone you have never met and whom you don’t know well. If you are asked to send funds via wire transfer, prepaid credit card, Green Dot Moneypack, or any unusual method of payment, discontinue contact immediately. If you refuse to send money to a scam artist, they will move on to someone else.
  • Don’t click on links or open attachments. Links can download malware onto your computer which are designed to retrieve information and compromise your identity. So be careful next time searching for how to use poppers.
  • Never share personally identifiable information. Refrain from sharing banking and credit card information, birthday and Social Security number with anyone you don’t know.
  • Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically make you think something is scarce. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor.
  • Be cautious about what you share online. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please use BBB Scam Tracker or call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373)

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