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Friday, May 16 2014 02:00 PM

ACTION LINE: How to report scams

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    Blair Looney, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Central California.

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BY BLAIR LOONEY Contributing columnist

Dear Action Line: I got a call from someone claiming to be from my bank. The caller requested that I provide my bank account information over the phone; otherwise I would risk the bank deactivating my account.

I told the caller that I would verify the matter in person with my bank. I was surprised that the caller gave me the name and phone number to his supervisor. I looked the phone number up online and it appears that other people have received the same call. I know that this is a scam, but what can I do to report it?

Dear reader: The telephone is still the favorite tool for many scammers, and each and every day consumers and business owners lose money to telephone scams.

These scammers come up with clever schemes to trick unsuspecting consumers, however a large majority of these individual scams fall under one of the following categories: prize/sweepstakes scams, phishing scams, fake check scams and recovery/refund scams.

As a general rule, never release secured information over the phone or by email. If a caller claims to be with your bank or your credit card company and wants your account information so he can verify it, he isn't telling the truth; and your credit card company should already have this information. Be advised that your bank should never ask for a card number or any other personal information during an unsolicited phone call or automated call or text.

When in doubt, hang up immediately and call the business or government agency directly if you believe there is an issue. If you receive a call that's obviously a scam, here is what you can do:

* If the scammer claims to be from your bank or you think your account has been compromised, report the incident to your bank

* File a complaint with the state Attorney General's office by visiting www.oag.ca.gov or calling 916-322-3360. This agency operates programs to protect Californians from fraudulent, unfair and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety.

* Report your experience to www.ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 888-382-1222. This action will help the FTC detect patterns of fraud and abuse.

* Notify your local Better Business Bureau about the scam by calling 800-675-8118 or report the scam by visiting www.bbb.org/council/bbb-scam-stopper. This can help the BBB get the word out to the public.

* If you're registered with the National Do Not Call registry, report the number at www.donotcall.gov. This registry won't stop all unsolicited calls, but it will stop most. Some organizations are exempt from the registry and it will not stop scammers that ignore the law.

Reporting scams helps stop scammers and prevents more victims in the future. Smart people fall victim to scams every day. Awareness and education can help you protect yourself from becoming a victim.

-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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