BBB: The trouble with Pokémon Go and other tech scams

By Dennis Horton
Director, Rockford Regional Office
Better Business Bureau

You only need to check your Facebook news feed to know that the Pokémon Go craze is hot. But, many players are not taking into account, their safety, and what precautions they need to take. There are reports from around the country and right here at home of players being robbed and/or beaten by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Better Business Bureau has a series of tips to help consumers participate in Pokémon Go safely; as well as how to avoid getting scammed in a Pokémon Go phishing scheme. You can find those tips at bbb.org/pokemon.

The phishing scheme is an “upgrade campaign” designed to steal money and identity information from unsuspecting victims, who are informed they need a $12.99 upgrade or their accounts will freeze. The fake message and upgrade are new versions of old scams being reworked into a digital age.

Scammers are always looking for opportunities to exploit hot trends that spark high emotions and often, hot events and new technologies are targeted. Many “Pokémon Go” enthusiasts are millennials who have helped lead the way for baby boomers and Gen Xers to use mobile phones for everything. For better or worse – there is an overall dependence on technology – texting, social media, apps and browsing, all which makes the mobile world an irresistible target for scammers.

Some other tricks being used by scammers to advance with the times and trends are:

One-ring phone scams. The one-ring scam uses automated calls programmed to look like they came from a domestic number. But when you call back, you’re making an expensive international call.

Scammers often use these calls, to verify that phone numbers on a list they’ve obtained are legitimate. They then may call again with another scam.

BBB recommends that you register your cell phone with the national Do Not Call Registry. Do not respond to unfamiliar numbers, especially if the phone only rings once, and don’t press any numbers in a voice response call from an unidentified number.

Job scams. False job postings online may look legitimate, but they’re really schemes to commit fraud, either by asking you to pay for merchandise to sell or for pre-employment screenings like drug tests or as a way to get sensitive information like Social Security numbers that can be used to commit fraud.

BBB advises job seekers to be skeptical of unsolicited job offers, especially mystery shopping or work-at-home schemes, which are almost always scams.

Never give your Social Security number to an employer until you’ve been hired. Your employer will need that information to report your earnings and for payroll tax purposes.

Public Wi-Fi scams. Free internet at libraries, coffee shops and malls is a great convenience, but it’s not secure. Scammers often hack into the networks looking for victims using laptops, tablets or phones. Never use public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions like banking or making online purchases.

Social media scams. A series of scams on social media platforms are being reported including this recent warning from the Better Business Bureau of an Instagram hacking campaign.

If you feel you have encountered a scam – please check it out or report it to the Better Business Bureau. You can see the latest scams in our area and report incidents to the BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/chicago – this is a tool that allows consumers to check out scams online and report scammers.

BBB works with law enforcement and the media to publicize scams. More than 30,000 scams have been reported using the online tool since it was rolled out last year.

For more consumer tips, visit: bbb.org/chicago, and like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and add us on Pinterest.

Dennis Horton is the Director, of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

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