There are countless variations on phony debt collection scams, and the latest has scammers pretending to be the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Chamber of Commerce to try to trick businesses into paying “overdue fees.”
One business owner said he received a call from a woman claiming to be with the BBB asking if he was planning to renew his Accreditation for $399. He asked the caller if she was in the BBB’s office, and she replied that she was calling from California. He told her that he goes to the BBB office to pay, and he wasn’t going to pay over the phone. Unfortunately, the caller’s phone number was blocked, so he had nothing to indicate who was calling or where the call came from.
Another business reported a similar incident to BBB Scam Tracker. The business received an email saying “Hi, please see below the list of overdue invoices, of which $2,393.95 is due since last month.” The email included a link to a payment site that is not associated with BBB and could be malicious.
A related scam is targeting Chambers of Commerce. Another businessman described receiving a call from a man using the name “Bocca Deli” who was posing as an employee of the Chamber of Commerce. The caller requested the names of employees and owners at the company. BBB confirmed that this caller was not associated with the Chamber and was phishing for information about members.
In addition to trying to extract money from the businesses, the scammers also try to get personally identifiable information by claiming that they need to update a company’s contact information, address, and payment information. They then use the information to perpetrate fraud.
While a BBB office may contact a business for a variety of reasons, you should never give personal or financial information over the phone during an unsolicited call from someone you do not know. A caller from a legitimate partner, such as BBB or the Chamber of Commerce, will not be offended if you tell them you want to contact them through a main number. End the call and call back through the number in your records or the number on the organization’s website.
Tips to Spot This Scam:
- Ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. In the U.S. and most of Canada, debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
- Ask for more information. If you do owe money and aren’t sure if the caller is real, ask for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Do not provide any bank account, credit card, or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If the collector is legitimate, they should have details on the accounts in question.
- Just hang up. If you don’t have any outstanding loans, hang up. Don’t press any numbers or speak to an “agent.”
- Check your credit report. In the US, check with one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian). In Canada, check with Equifax Canada. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report. If the scammer has personal information, place a fraud alert with the three national credit reporting companies.