We’re moving to our new site

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve taken the step to put all the Better Business Bureaus blogs under one website: BBBhelp.com.

This new site will host the four wordpress.com sites to make it easier to navigate, gain access to www.bbb.org, bbbASAP.com, business reviews, YouTube posts and audio posts.


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Filed under News You Can Trust

Don’t be a hoarder, Shred It!; Event scheduled for Saturday

records retention
By Robb Hicken/BBB’s chief storyteller

Each April, Better Business Bureau works with a variety of community-minded businesses Cintas and Western Records Destruction to offer free shredding to anyone looking to safely and securely dispose of paper. It’s an ‘on-the-house’ incentive to spring clean the filing cabinets, drawers and closets of papers containing information for your eyes only.

Here’s a checklist to help you get ready for Saturday’s Secure Your ID event, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Idaho Transportation Department, 3311 W. State St., Boise.

1) Decide what to keep and what not to keep. Based on guidance from the Internal Revenue Service – here are four groups of documents:

  • Old stuff to keep forever. The bottom line is that some items simply need to be held on to indefinitely—like previous tax returns, retirement account contributions, deeds and mortgage paperwork.
  • Old stuff to keep for seven years. The IRS recommends keeping documents anywhere from one to seven years, but to simplify the process I just decided to make it easy: If something is on the retention schedule at all and less than seven years old, it will go in the “keep” pile.
  • Current stuff to keep. For the current year’s taxes, I need to hold on to everything from the most recent calendar year. However, it won’t do me any good to mix it all in with the seven-year pile so it gets its own group.
  • Stuff to destroy. Everything else. That happy hour receipt is a great reminder of an afternoon well spent, but poses no real reason to be saved.

2) Sort everything. Gather all the papers, make a big pile and after the four categories, it’s easy to stick to what’s important.

3) Organize the documents that need to be kept. This is by far the most complicated part of the process. Start a filing system. Organizing documents by type is a great way to maximize efficiency – let’s say an insurance document – not sure which year it was filed, so create an insurance folder and it’s there, somewhere. Each folder is organized chronologically, with the most recent documents in front and the seven-year-old documents in the back. Create six different folders:

  • Credit Card/Purchasing Documents
  • Bank Documents
  • Investment Documents
  • Insurance Documents
  • Tax Documents
  • Home/Residence & Personal Documents

4) Shred. BBB free document shredding events will have Cintas and Western Records Managment – one right after taxes are due in April and the other during National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October.

5) Be proactive in protecting identities. You’re responsible for keeping your identity secure. This simple guideline for securing your identity is just the start.

A personal shredder can keep up with secure document destruction all year-long. You can also find more information on how to protect yourself at BBB.org or BBBhelp.com. BBB periodically sends out an email alerts to members with scams that are targeting the area with phishing scams.

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PCH sweepstakes scammer flustered by ‘Walmart’ non shopper

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

A scammer calling Treasure Valley residents about a huge sweepstakes had no catchy comeback for Kathie Hilliard.

“I answered the call and was told I had won $5.5 million, a car and an all expense paid cruise from Publisher’s Clearing House,” she says. “When he finished telling me I’d won, he asked me how I felt about such a big winning.”

Looking at the phone number 876-387-6554, listening to the accent, and knowing she’d never entered the PCH Sweepstakes at any point, she responded.

“I told him it was pretty amazing, especially because I have never entered a contest,” she says.

His comeback to her was this – “You probably just didn’t remember entering when you shopped at CVS or Walmart.”

Hilliard said he mentioned several other stores she didn’t even recognize, before she says, “I told him we don’t have most of those stores in our area, and that I never shop at Walmart.”

But the scammer wasn’t going to give up: “Are you sure?”

“I replied, ‘Yes! I know where I shop and you haven’t named one store, yet,’” she says.

He hung up.

“I guess that means I didn’t really win, huh!?” she says.

Remember this:

Record the call if you can, or take notes and then contact the BBB – Write down the phone number. Then, contact BBB at info@boise.bbb.org or (208)342.4649.

You must enter to win. Remember lottery tickets must be purchased and sweepstakes must be entered to win. Sweepstakes usually involve application paperwork that you have personally completed and government grants have a thorough application process as well.

Never pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you’re not winning. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.

Never wire money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push from the caller to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.

Phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows con artists to disguise their area code so it looks like they’re calling from your local area. But they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

Ask Questions. If the caller has a difficult time answering any “off script” questions, this is a red flag that it’s not legitimate.

Never give personal information. Scammers can be very charming and charismatic and will lure or pressure for personal information.

Foreign lotteries are illegal. Foreign lotteries violate federal law and participating in any way is illegal. The only legal lotteries in the United States are state-run.

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Filed under News You Can Trust, Scam alert

Sweepstakes scams continue to plague Snake River Region

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

With her grandson in a hospital back east, Idaho Falls resident Carol Jones says she mistakenly picked up the phone thinking it was going to be an update when she saw the 202- prefix.

The caller said he was with Lloyd’s of America and needed to discuss “her $350,000 winnings.”

“The minute I heard him say I would need to get a $250 Green Dot card, I knew it was a scam caller,” Jones says. She ended the call.

Sweepstakes/lottery scams use Lloyd’s or other insurance companies’ names to add credibility to the scam.The purpose of the scam is to steal the money sent for the supposed insurance premium.

Perpetrators of sweepstakes/lottery scams may also claim to be calling from actual or fictitious government departments or agencies trying to lend further credibility to their scam.Calls from pseudo-Publisher’s Clearing House to a woman from Shelley, an American Sweepstakes in Blackfoot, a Spain Lottery winner in Caldwell, and a US Consumer Protection Bureau prize have been taken at Better Business Bureau.

Scammers pretend to be official prize coordinators to get you to send them money. They might promise lottery winnings if you pay “taxes” or other fees, or they might threaten you with arrest or a lawsuit if you don’t pay a supposed debt. Regardless of their tactics, their goal is the same: to get you to send them money.

Anyone taking a call should not send money or talk to them. Lloyd’s and/or other insurance companies would never contact any person directly asking them to pay a premium to collect any ‘alleged’ winnings.

Here are tips to avoid them:

You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter: You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you’ve been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.

Verify — but not by using a source scammers gave you. Check if an offer is real, but don’t call the phone number in the email or website you suspect may be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved too.

Don’t pay up to claim your prize: You should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.

The only legal lotteries in the United States are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal.

If you get a call from a government imposter, file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint, with the BBB, 208-342- or rhicken@boise.bbb.org. Be sure to include:

  • date and time of the call
  • name of the government agency the imposter used
  • what they tell you, including the amount of money and the payment method they ask for
  • phone number of the caller (Scammers may use technology to create a fake number or spoof a real one, but law enforcement agents may be able to track that number to identify the caller any other details from the call.)

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Filed under News You Can Trust