Chamber updated on latest scams

BUCKHANNON – Smartphone users with the application “the brightest flashlight ever” should delete it immediately, according to a representative of the Better Business Bureau of Canton, Ohio.

Mindi Dillon, the bureau’s West Virginia community relations representative, shared that advice with members of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon at the American Legion on Monday.

Dillon described recent scams targeting members of the public and called “the brightest flashlight ever” application “a terrible application that sucks out all of your information, and they’re selling it to other companies.”

She added, ” I had it on my phone, and I didn’t even know.”

She said scams are rampant during the holidays when swindlers prey on people’s loneliness.

“One of the recent ones was the jail-grandparents scam, where people were getting names of your grandparents somehow and calling them and saying, ‘Hey, Susie Smith (the grandchild) is in jail if you could just wire us $500, we’ll be able to get her out.”

Dillon said many people fell for the ruse.

She also said lonely people can fall victim to unscrupulous dating websites. “They’re not always what they’re cut out to be. A lot of people have lost a lot of money on those sites.”

Dillon said one of her goals is to educate members of the armed services, who, like senior citizens, are frequently targeted by scammers because they receive checks regularly.

Dillon also briefed Chamber members on what the BBB can do for consumers and businesses.

She said her BBB region – the Canton, Ohio Region/Greater West Virginia division of the BBB – covers 52 of West Virginia’s 55 counties and 13 counties in southeast Ohio. The region handles approximatelly 4,000 consumer complaints each year, and annually, about 350,000 people use the BBB’s website to check on a business or nonprofit at no charge, Dillon said.

“If Mr. Brown wants to get his roof redone, but he doesn’t know which roofer he wants to use in the area, he can actually go to the Better Business Bureau site, just type in a name, a phone number, a street address, any of those aspects, and look up the person,” she said.

And although the BBB also mediates disputes between businesses and consumers and helps to enforce the Lemon Law, the organization is primarily in the business of accrediting businesses, Dillon said.

“It’s to your benefit to become BBB-accredited, and there are a number of reasons for that,” she said. Accredited businesses are graded by the BBB, receive status and reliability reports, have access to educational seminars and are spotlighted monthly.

To become BBB-accredited, a business must show it’s been in operation for at least one year. It must also advertise honestly and tell the truth.

“One of our departments specifically just checks advertisements in our area to make sure they are true,” she said. “A lot of them are false – even simple things like ‘the best mattress in the world’ -you have to be able to prove that.”

BBB-accredited businesses must also be transparent, meaning they must openly identify their nature, location, operations and procedures that play a role in attracting customers

Finally, BBB-accredited companies must protect a customer’s private information.

“We are the most trusted entity in the marketplace,” Dillon said. “We embody integrity.”