Phone Scams Reach Record 10.2 Billion. Here's How to Protect Yourself

Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

Does it feel like you’ve had more than your fair share of robocalls this year? If so, you’re not alone. Phone scammers were extra busy in 2016, making a record 10.2 billion robocalls to Americans, offering them everything from fake cruises and gift cards to opportunities to support bogus charities, according to a new report from Hiya, a company providing caller ID and call-blocker apps.

The same holds true for holiday scams, which saw an increase of more than 113% over last year, according to Hiya’s data.

“By taking advantage of the holiday ‘giving’ season, scam calls aimed at defrauding consumers are on the rise,” Jan Volzke, vice president of reputation data at Hiya, said in a prepared statement. “Whether preying on the spirit of gifting or the desire to get away after a rocky 2016, scammers are continuing to inundate the phone lines with fraud. We hope our data can educate consumers about these malicious and annoying calls so they can get back to enjoying their holiday season.”

These are the top phone scams for 2016, according to Hiya.

1. Telemarketer

Scammers are using telemarketing techniques to lure victims into giving out Social Security and credit card numbers, as well as bank account information.

2. Other Robocalls

Robocallers have been dodging regulations against their illegal activity by frequently changing or “spoofing” their caller ID so they appear to be calling from a local number.

3. Extortion/Kidnapping Scam

These scammers call random phone numbers and demand payment for the return of a “kidnapped” loved one.

4. IRS Scam

The caller pretends to be with the IRS and demands money for unpaid taxes or will trick the recipient into sharing private information. Remember, the IRS will never, ever call you about any taxes you owe.

5. Debt Collector

These scammers offer “solutions” to help victims pay off credit card and loan debt. Victims will give personal and financial information, enabling scammers to steal their identity and money.

6. Surveys

Scammers call victims offering prizes if they take a survey. However, before redeeming the prize, credit card information must be provided to cover “shipping and handling.”

7. Vacation Scams

Victims are notified that they have won a free vacation, but discover they have to pay a number of fees, provide a credit card number and are pressured to sign up for travel clubs to “earn” more trips.

8. Lucky Winner Scam

Scammers alert victims that they are the lucky winner of a contest or lottery. To redeem the prize, victims must provide personal and/or financial information.

9. Tech Support

Scammers pretend they are calling from a reputable tech agency (i.e. Microsoft or Dell) and claim that they have been notified of a virus on the victim’s computer. Scammers demand payment for services and third-party access to the computer to obtain private information.

10. Political Scams

During election season, scammers call victims requesting candidate donations, verifying voter registration, claiming they need to re-register to vote, or requesting that they take an election survey.

How to Help Avoid Being Scammed

To keep yourself safe from these and other scammers, the FBI recommends you exercise caution in how you respond to any call from someone you aren’t familiar with in order to help protect yourself from the damage of identity theft and fraud.

They urge you to:

Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.

Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.

Trust your instincts: If an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.

If you think you or a loved one may have been a victim of a phone scam, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for signs of fraud, like unauthorized transactions or unfamiliar entries. Be sure to immediately address these issues by notifying the authorities and even considering a credit freeze. Checking your bank activity for any problems is something you can do daily, but you can also get two free credit scores on Credit.com, updated every 14 days, to help you quickly spot some signs of identity theft, like that aforementioned sudden drop in scores. You can also get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Numbers don’t lie: 5 things to know about your FICO score

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 10:37 AM
Updated: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 10:37 AM

To get into the all-important "good credit" score range, experts recommend these five strategies Check and re-check your credit report Avoid quick-fix promises Delinquent payments can seriously damage your FICO scores Pay off more of what you owe Apply for credit cards one at a time

With the 2017 hacking of credit bureau Equifax, credit scores have been in the spotlight recently. But credit scores are important every day for adults who earn or borrow money, especially the FICO score, which is used by 90 of the top 100 largest U.S. financial institutions. 

RELATED: Equifax data breach: What to know

Just what is a FICO score? The short answer: the global standard for measuring credit risk in the banking, mortgage, credit card, auto and retail industries, created by Fair Isaac Corporation. The average adult has FICO scores from each of the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. FICO scores are based on amounts owed (30 percent), new credit (10 percent), length of credit history (15 percent), payment history (35 percent) and credit mix (10 percent).

A low FICO score might contribute to a lender's decision to deny you credit and could increase the cost of an auto loan by almost $5,000, according to Consumer Reports. A high FICO can save you thousands annually on everything from reduced credit card interest to the size of the deposit you must pay for electric utility service.

RELATED: Uber isn't everything: 7 other lucrative part-time side gigs 

To get into the all-important "good credit" score range, Consumer Reports and myFICO.com recommend these five strategies:

Atlanta-based consumer credit reporting agency Equifax reversed a decision to include forced arbitration language in its terms of service for its free credit monitoring products after a public outcry earlier this month. The company said a breach of its computer systems had exposed the Social Security numbers and birthdates of up to 143 million U.S. consumers. (Dreamstime/TNS)(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Check and re-check your credit report

Request one free credit report from a different reporting agency every four months through AnnualCreditReport.com and check for errors, according to Consumer Reports. If you find an error, dispute it with the credit bureau. Pay particular attention to make sure no one has incorrectly listed a late payment on any of your accounts or miscalculated amounts owed on any open accounts. "Hard pull" credit inquiries, which are made by potential lenders with your permission, can lower your FICO score slightly, but this is different. When you check on your own credit, there's no penalty. 

Avoid quick-fix promises

According to myFICO.com, so-called "quick fix" efforts to repair your credit history are the most likely to backfire, so consumers should be leery of any advertisements or credit counselors claiming they can improve your credit score fast. Depending on the reason for a low score, you may need 12 to 24 months before any efforts (except for error corrections) start showing on your score. You can accelerate the improvement by enrolling in a debt-management program and making payments on time, but there's no instant fix.

(Contributed by nestiny.com/For the AJC)

Persistently pay your bills on time

Even if you are only missing payments by a few days, delinquent payments can seriously damage your FICO scores, particularly since you can't fix previous missed or late payments. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current so you can demonstrate that the problem is in the past. Accoding to myFICO, older credit problems count for less and will fade as your new on-time payment pattern starts showing up on your credit report. Some older versions of FICO keep collection accounts on your credit report for up to seven years even if they're paid off, but the most current versions of FICO ignore any collections when the balance is zero, according to Consumer Reports.

Pay off more of what you owe

The "amounts owed" category makes up 30 percent to your FICO score calculation. Unlike payment history, you can address it immediately, but you'll need financial discipline: "The most effective way to improve your credit scores in this area is by paying down your revolving–credit card–debt." Don't close unused credit cards as a short-term plan to up your scores, since it may just increase the percentage of available credit you are using - a no-no for high credit scores. The same goes for opening a new credit cards you don't need: while it will increase your available credit, it could negatively impact the average age of your credit accounts and damage your FICO scores.

Apply for credit cards one at a time

When you apply for multiple credit cards at the same time, you generate several "hard pull" requests for your credit history, which can hurt your FICO score, according to Consumer Reports. This advice only holds true for credit cards, not house, car or student loans. 

MyFICO also reminds consumers that while FICO scores are important, they're not the be-all and end-all. Lenders look at information such as the amount of debt you can reasonably handle given your income, your employment history and your credit history. Based on their perception of this information, as well as their specific underwriting policies, lenders may extend credit to you even if your score is low - or decline your request for credit even though your score is high.

To get started improving your FICO score, access myFICO's estimator tool, which helps you approximate your score range without any identifying information. It also offers a direct link that allows you to file an online credit report dispute and gives more detailed answers to the question "What is FICO?"

Scene 75 CEO buys former ITT property

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 2:34 PM

Jonah Sandler is the CEO of Scene 75 Entertainment Center. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Jonah Sandler is the CEO of Scene 75 Entertainment Center. LISA POWELL / STAFF

A holding company run by the chief executive of Scene 75 Entertainment has bought the nearby former ITT Tech school property on Stop Eight Road.

JDS Commercial Holdings LLC — of which Jonah D. Sandler is the principal — bought the former school property at 3325 Stop Eight Road for $740,000, Montgomery County property records show.

RELATEDMental health agency plans $1 million property investment

Five years ago, Sandler opened Scene 75 at 6196 Poe Ave. Since then, he has announced plans to open a third entertainment location 30 miles south of Cleveland in Brunswick, Ohio. Besides the Dayton center, the company also has a 84,000-square-foot Cincinnati-area venue in Milford.

The former school — which closed last September — is just south of Scene 75 on Poe, near the intersection of Poe and Stop Eight.

RELATEDBuyer pays $4.3M for property near airport

Last year, ITT Technical Institute closed all 130 of its campuses nationally in a move that put 8,000 employees out of work, in the wake of federal sanctions against the school.

A message seeking comment was left with Sandler Tuesday.

Eastway plans total $1M property investment

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 @ 8:26 AM

A model of the newly remodeled Eastway Behavioral Healthcare headquarters on Wayne Avenue. The agency is purchasing a former print shop on Bainbridge near the headquarters. In total, the agency is investing $1 million into both its headquarters remodeling and the property purchase. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
A model of the newly remodeled Eastway Behavioral Healthcare headquarters on Wayne Avenue. The agency is purchasing a former print shop on Bainbridge near the headquarters. In total, the agency is investing $1 million into both its headquarters remodeling and the property purchase. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Eastway Behavioral Healthcare, a mental health services agency, is purchasing an industrial building and parking lot across Bainbridge Street near its Dayton headquarters, with plans to create a center for job training there, agency leaders announced Monday evening.

Dayton-based Eastway Behavioral Healthcare has already announced an investment of about $500,000 into remaking its 600 Wayne Ave. headquarters and pharmacy — and agency leaders announced their plans for the Bainbridge property Monday at a 60th anniversary celebration at the Victoria Theatre.

Together, the refurbishing of the headquarters and the purchase of the Bainbridge property amount to a total investment of about $1 million, Eastway officers said.

RELATEDDayton mental health agency has national impact

Krystal Burke, Eastway director of business development, said she recently approached the owner of the property about the possibility of leasing some of his parking spaces to Eastway. Instead, he offered to sell the entire site, including the building where a printing and packing business had been located for decades, Burke said.

The business was Print Products Inc., 419 Bainbridge.

“It’s a very attractive building on the inside,” Burke said. “There were a lot of upgrades.”

RELATEDMental health agency to make $5ooK headquarters investment

She added: “I told John (Strahm, Eastway president and chief executive), ‘Just hear me out. I think I stumbled on a really great opportunity.’”

One of Ohio’s largest mental health care agencies, Eastway in recent months has expanded its service footprint to include Columbus and Washington Court House, even serving clients nationally from as far away as Idaho.

“Our message to the Dayton community, although we have expanded our catchment areas to Columbus … our primary commitment for 60 years has been serving the needs of these people in Dayton.”

In the past decade, the agency’s revenue has nearly doubled, from $16 million annually in 2007 to an expected $30 million in this fiscal year, Eastway leaders said.

“It’s planned growth,” Burke said. “It’s not just to see how big or how fast we can grow.”

Each year, the agency treat 3,500 adults in Dayton. The agency manages 24 facilities across mostly Southern and Central Ohio.

Jury trial scheduled in Reynolds lawsuit

Published: Thursday, August 31, 2017 @ 9:29 AM

Kettering-based Reynolds and Reynolds has about 1,300 local employees. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Kettering-based Reynolds and Reynolds has about 1,300 local employees. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

A jury trial has been scheduled in an antitrust lawsuit against a major Kettering employer and a second company in federal court.

According to a schedule filed Wednesday in federal court in Wisconsin’s western district, a trial in Authenticom’s lawsuit against Kettering’s Reynolds and Reynolds and CDK Global LLC is set to happen Oct. 22, 2018.

That’s if the case gets that far: Confidential settlement proposals — outlining terms of a possible settlement in the case — are due by Aug. 20, 2018. Those letters will not be part of the lawsuit’s public record, the filing said.

RELATEDDC attorney: FTC probes not to be taken lightly

Both Reynolds and CDK are being sued by a third company, LaCrosse, Wisc.-based Authenticom Inc., which has accused the two companies of forming an agreement or business relationship against it. Authenticom charges that the two defendants have kept it out of auto dealership databases, even when auto dealers approved Authenticom’s use of those databases.

A spokesman for Reynolds has said the company believes that its policy of not allowing “unauthorized intermediaries” into its auto dealer database systems ultimately protects dealership data.

RELATEDCourt stays injunction against Reynolds

Authenticom is an auto dealer data integration service provider, while Reynolds and CDK are much larger companies offering auto dealer business management systems.

Meanwhile, publicly traded CDK recently revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the Federal Trade Commission has asked CDK to “produce documents relating to any agreements between ourselves and Reynolds and Reynolds.”

CDK has said the company is cooperating with the request. A Reynolds spokesman has not commented on the FTC questions.

“The parties and their attorneys must at all times treat everyone involved in this lawsuit with courtesy and consideration,” Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker wrote in Wednesday’s filing. “The parties must attend diligently to their obligation in this lawsuit and must reasonably accommodate each other in all matters so as to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive resolution of each proceeding in this matter.”

Reynolds has about 1,300 employees in a County Line Road campus near the Kettering-Beavercreek border.