Dick Eppstein, long time president of the Northwest Ohio Better Business Bureau, has seen it all — scams, junk mail, identity theft, and internet schemes.
Eppstein, his family members, and even other employees in the BBB office have been scammed. Eppstein himself noticed a $4,000 charge on his credit card for a purchase he did not make. No one is immune.
Then there are those times when his office is in the news, and the public is right there to criticize. He related an alleged scam while talking to guests attending an East Toledo Club luncheon at the Weber Block last Thursday.
|Northwest Ohio Better Business Bureau
president Dick Epstein during his presenta-
tion to the East Toledo Club at the Weber
Block. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
“There are times when I’m not real popular,” Eppstein admitted. “A couple years ago we got into a real donnybrook over a thing called Iraqi dinars — this was money from Iraq that people were selling. They were telling you, ‘Now, it’s worth nothing because it’s got Saddam Hussein’s picture on it. But, in a few years it’s going to be worth all this money. It’s a great investment.’
“So, I went on the news and warned about speculating about Iraqi dinars. Oh my goodness, I got furious calls from people telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and it was the best investment in the world. ‘What are you doing? You are hurting our chance to make money selling these dinars.’
“In today’s news, about 11 o’clock, a federal grand jury returned an 83-count indictment against (several individuals) for fraud for, among other things, selling Iraqi dinars. So, I guess we were right on that one.”
Eppstein says the NWO BBB also gets criticised for not getting to the public information about the latest scams — at least, not before it’s too late for someone. To help, his office announced last week that consumers can register to receive text alerts.
E-mail alerts have been ongoing, but Eppstein says because of the high content of spam going to consumer’s in-boxes nowadays, about 90 percent of the e-mails are ignored. He says a large share of the other e-mails finding their way past filters and into inboxes are nothing but scams — almost always sent from overseas.
In the latest scheme, Eppstein says consumers have been receiving fake FBI e-mails claiming “you may be involved in terrorism” and they threaten your arrest. The crooks’ ultimate goal is to steal information from your computer.
“We had calls from people — all scared,” Eppstein said. “They said they were from the FBI and they were going to come over and arrest me if I don’t give them information or something.”
While e-mail scams make their appearance daily, phone scams are still a threat to consumers, Eppstein says.
“A woman from Wauseon called, saying she received a phone call about saving her money on her credit cards. (They said), ‘Your interest rate it too high, and we can save you money if you deal with our company.’
“Unfortunately, she fell for the pitch and sent $900 to this company. The company disappeared, the phone number was disconnected, she got no response and now she’s out $900,” Eppstein said.
And, Eppstein says, if Microsoft or any other technical support company calls, don’t follow their lead based on what they present over the phone. He’s even gotten fake technical support calls at his home.
“There are people calling you up at home and saying, ‘This is Microsoft. We’re calling you because our computers here have detected a virus on your home computer. But, don’t worry about it. It’s a free service from Microsoft — we can update your computer for you. Just log on, and I’ll tell you how to hook us up so we can get into your computer and we can fix your virus.’”
Eppstein continued, “Microsoft doesn’t do that. That’s crazy — but that’s their pitch. These people are calling all over our area — they called my home. Of course, my wife knew it was a scam — I’ve told her about it. And they are out of the Philippines — they aren’t local. Scams come from all over the world now.”
Then, there are charities, and while they may be legitimate in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, it doesn’t mind you have to give money based on a phone call or a fancy package that arrives in the mail.
“I just put out an alert on a phony police organization that was calling around our area,” Eppstein said. “I have warned for years about these bogus phone calls, claiming to be police, firefighters, troopers, and veterans. They call you up and they want donations, and they’ll put pressure on you, ‘Don’t you want to help the police?’
“This particular police protective bunch claims that they are local, and they are out of Florida. They claim that the money you give goes to families of police officers killed in the line of duty. They are calling all over the country and one of the other Better Business Bureaus found out that in the last nine years, they have taken in $40 million. You know what they’ve given to families? $200,000 out of $40 million. The rest went to fundraising, administration, somebody’s pocket, and they go on and on and just keep doing it.”
Another mailing that arrived at Eppstein’s home was from an American Indian school in South Dakota complete with flower stickers, name stickers, color brochures, a gift, and a certificate.
“We’ve never given to this charity. My wife opens it up and it’s a fancy, fancy deal. People donate money to anything,” Eppstein said.
“Here’s what you need to know — the Better Business Bureau has information on these guys. (The school) is a legitimate school in South Dakota except that they took in $60 million per year and they spend 50 percent on the kids and 50 percent goes to fundraising and junk like this. Why are you paying for this junk?
“You want to be helping the children. These guys, last winter, sent out an appeal, which said the cost of heating our school is so serious that we’re making an emergency appeal for money. These guys have millions of dollars in the bank. They don’t have any emergencies. They don’t need any money, and yet they are telling people they need money to keep the children from freezing to death.”
Eppstein said one organization took in $17 million in one year, and an audit showed they had spent $53,000 of that on children’s cancer.
“Before you donate money to a charity, don’t assume. While it says ‘cancer’ on the envelope or it says ‘wish’ on the envelope, it’s not Make-a-Wish, it’s some other ‘Wish.’ It’s not Susan B. Komen Cancer, it’s some other cancer — there are dozens of them. People throw away millions of dollars on charities that aren’t helping anybody.”
These are just a sampling of schemes — Eppstein discussed dozens more and the NWO BBB has literature in its office and at www.toledo.bbb.org.
Northwest Ohio Better Business Bureau president Dick Eppstein during his presentation to the East Toledo Club at the Weber Block. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)