This blog article is based on the College Talks & More podcast brought to you by Mybookcart.com. Co-hosts Hanna and Cari interviewed Luke, who offers information about the organization Better Business Bureau and how they educate young consumers about scam prevention. He started out by giving a brief overview of himself:
My name is Luke Frey and I am the associate director of communications for BBB serving Connecticut. A little bit on my college and career background is I attended Temple University in Philadelphia for media production. After school, I worked at QVC and a few of the local TV stations here in Hartford. I am now at the Better Business Bureau where I get to go around to all of the TV stations here and work to educate consumers about scams happening in Connecticut. A lot of people think that scams happen to a certain age group or won’t happen to them. It gives me the best of both worlds because I can educate people about scams and also have that TV experience that I went to college for.
Can you give more detail about what the Better Business Bureau is and what it’s all about?
So a lot of people have either heard about BBB or have not. If you’ve heard about BBB, then you have probably used us to complain about a business, which is okay. We are here to take complaints for any business in the country. What that does is let a business know that there are complaints against them. The cool thing about BBB versus other outlets where you can post reviews or complaints is that a business is actually encouraged to respond to your BBB complaint. Also, the reason a company may have an F on BBB.org is because they don’t respond to complaints. It’s actually a really cool feature of complaining to a company through us because you are more likely to get a response or have your complaint resolved if you go through us. We’re also big on consumer education by teaching many people about scams. BBB is all about creating trust in a marketplace so we are the Better Business Bureau in Connecticut. We really work at creating trust between consumers and businesses. Scams are a big part of that so educating people in Connecticut about scams happening here or nationally is a huge part of what BBB does.
So, how does the BBB help students when looking for a job after graduation?
I don’t know if BBB is really targeted to help people find jobs. But, we actually just had an article come out yesterday about employment scams and how prevalent they are to everyone. During Covid and thousands of people being unemployed, looking for job opportunities and over 50% of employment scams are work-from-home opportunities. The problem now is if a job is posted, currently it is most likely that it is some sort of work-from-home opportunity. Since I’m working at home and our whole office is working from home so it’s really becoming increasingly harder for consumers to be able to tell if an opportunity is an employment scams or not. I think BBB really fears that throughout this time of severe unemployment, there are lots of people trying to find jobs so people may be desperate and go for an employment opportunity that is not legitimate. We don’t want that to happen and that’s why we release these articles in order to educate people about what they need to look out for in any type of scam.
You said that most employment scams pertain to people looking to work from home. Who would you say is most susceptible to that?
Most susceptible to an employment scam is people ages 18 to 35. It’s not only kids in college who are trying to find part-time or easy jobs to help pay for school or college. It’s also possibly people applying to jobs when they graduate or even that second or third job opportunity that they might have or try to get after they graduate. It’s not only people trying to find part-time jobs either as over half of employment scams are also full-time job opportunities. Again, over half of them also were work-from-home opportunities so it’s a lot of people looking for a flexible job, maybe an extra income and possibly something somewhat easy to do from home in order to make a couple extra bucks.
How does the BBB educate students on what to look out for when applying for jobs?
In terms of an employment scam, it’s really all about a few red flags. In an employment scam, a huge red flag is if you’re being asked to pay in order to get a job opportunity. Some of these part-time jobs and work-from-home opportunities are some sort of package reshipment program or they will convince you that you have to buy some sort of packet in order to be able to do your job. If anybody is ever asking you to pay any amount, it is most likely a scam because you should not have to pay for any sort of job opportunity. Other red flags include being hired almost immediately after you apply, not having an interview process, and other things that really don’t seem realistic if you were desperately trying to find a job. I know after graduating from college you’re just applying to anything and hoping people email you back. Unfortunately a lot of people are in that boat not only when they graduate but other times in their lives, as well. It’s important to take a step back and if anything seems off you really have to be careful because an employment scam opens you up to several types of fraud, too. It’s not only possibly reshipping stolen items, but you’re also doing that onboarding process so you’re handing over your bank account in order to get paid. You’re handing over so much personal information that you are opening yourself up to identity theft, also.
I was going over the Better Business Bureau website before the interview and I noticed that you do offer some scholarships. What other support does the BBB offer to students and can you go into more detail about the scholarships that the BBB offers?
We do have two scholarships. One is for a military child who is the child of a military active employee and one is also a general ethics scholarship for any high school senior. So, there are two of them and you can apply now even. If you go to BBB.org, go to that menu on the right side, go to “Get Involved”, and you will see the application processes for our two ethics scholarships. We also, in the past year, have begun to create a high school program, as well. We actually see a lot of need in scam education to high school seniors since they are about to be driving a car, some are about to be going to college, renting an apartment, leasing a car, and getting loans. In high school, you become a consumer for the first time, so they could have a credit card in possibly college, too. It’s a lot of things that can actually open you up to being scammed, like online purchase scams so it’s really important to educate anybody as early as possible about scams and things to look out for when opening up a bank account or credit card So, we are in the process of creating that program but obviously Covid-19 set that back a little bit. However, we are looking at creating it as a program that teachers can do virtually in their classroom or out of their classroom, as well. I’m actually really excited about that new program at our BBB.
Can a high school student win more than one scholarship through the BBB?
They can only win one scholarship. Again, one is for any high school senior and the other is for a high school senior and child of a person who is actively in the military.
When it comes to consumer tips, how is the BBB involved and how does the organization protect students?
Like I said before, BBB is all about educating consumers about scam prevention so it’s my primary duty to do that. We do have our general call in line where a consumer can call in and ask a question about something that was mailed to them or something that doesn’t seem right. We will try to talk them through that process and what they can do if they have been scammed. It’s also my primary job duty to go around and educate as many people as possible about what we are seeing happening. I often appear on Hartford TV, local talk shows to talk about some consumer tips that everybody can use. I was also talking about trying to educate people as early as high school and really telling them about these online purchase and employment scams. We actually see a ton of puppy scams here in Connecticut, where people are buying pets online and they don’t show up or it’s not an actual pet. Dogs are very expensive so they are not scams that are in the $20 to $30 loss range. It’s more in the $2,000 to $8,000 loss range of a puppy scam. It’s primarily my job duty to go out and educate as many people as possible.
You mentioned that a lot of consumer scams were internet-based. What are some other common consumer scams that people should look out for?
A huge scam obviously is online purchase scams. Almost daily, people go to our BBB scam tracker page, where you can submit any type of scam that you’ve come in contact with or have been through. A ton of these are online purchase scams, where you order an item and it doesn’t come. Most of the time, it seems like a legitimate site and you pay with a credit card (hopefully not a debit card) and you end up having to pay any amount, but the average amount of an online purchase scam is $20. A lot of people ask how to know if the site is legitimate and we tell them that you always have to do a lot of research on the site you want to order a product off of. Even if it looks legitimate, it may not be so even searching BBB.org or googling and seeing if any other person has ordered a product off of that site just to make sure you are actually purchasing a product from a real company is extremely important.
So you mentioned that a lot of people are losing money because of scams through their credit cards. Does someone also have to worry about a debit card?
So, another tip that I talk about all the time is if you make an online purchase, you should use a credit card or Paypal. A credit card has added protection, so you can call your credit card company if you have experienced an online purchase scam and sometimes, if you catch it early, they can take it off your credit card and you won’t have to pay that. If you use a debit card, it comes right out of your bank account, so you can’t call your bank and ask them to reimburse you. A credit card is different since it is credit and not actual cash that comes out of your account. Again, using a credit card is always the safe way if you are purchasing an item online.
Is the BBB an online resource only or can you visit in person?
We do have an office at 29 Berlin Road in Cromwell, Connecticut. You can always come in if you have any complaints or issues that you would like to talk to anybody about as far as scams go. You can also call into us and we are also an online resource. I would say that most people utilize BBB online. If you have a complaint you can submit it online. It’s a great tool, but again if you are old school and want to submit a complaint in person, we are open to that. BBB also tables at a lot of community events year long. We table at the Capitol building a few times a year and go to other events, as well. We like to have a footprint in Connecticut, where we are out and about and able to talk to people one-on-one about scams or trying to educate them in general.
Where can someone find more information about the Better Business Bureau?
Anyone can go to bbb.org/ct. There’s a lot of great information about our BBB scam tracker that anyone can use. Also, you can zoom into your state or town, even and see what scams are present in your area. This is helpful because people are able to see if there are any trends of consumers being targeted in their area. You can find our BBB scam tracker by going to bbb.org/scamtracker.
Is there a nationwide umbrella for the BBB or is it state by state?
We are the Better Business Bureau in Connecticut, but there are BBB’s all across the U.S. Every BBB has a service area and our area is the entire state of Connecticut. We do have an umbrella organization in DC called the International Association of Better Business Bureaus that is our corporate headquarters. So, our BBB handles all complaints for every business in the entire state of Connecticut. Likewise, if you had a complaint for a business in another state, you would have to call the BBB that covers that state.
How does the BBB advertise to college students?
We try to post on our social media accounts as often as possible so we can be known to younger age groups. We do this by posting on Facebook, Twitter, and we also post articles to get people to read our consumer tips and educate themselves quickly. We are also trying to get into high schools and colleges to help educate young consumers about safely renting apartments, opening up a credit card, etc.
Does the Better Business Bureau offer any events throughout the year that people can attend?
We do have a BBB open house once a year that anybody can come to. Also, we have a Better Business Summit that we host since a large part of BBB is the fact that there are BBB accredited businesses in Connecticut. There are actually over 5,000 accredited businesses so if you are looking to hire a contractor, go to a small local shop, or order online that business could be accredited so you can search bbb.org to check. We host a Better Business Summit so business owners here in Connecticut can grow their business and survive in our state’s tough landscape. Especially with Covid-19, it has been extremely hard on small local businesses and our small towns in Connecticut thrive and live off of small businesses. A passion and goal of BBB is to work with business owners and help them succeed.
How has Covid-19 affected the BBB in its operations?
A lot of employees at the BBB are actually working from home. We don’t have an expected date to come back to the office yet but everyone has been doing a great job working from home. Fortunately, we haven’t had to cancel or stop doing any of the services that we offer since we have started working from home. My job has been affected the most because I’m usually out in the community and going to TV stations, but I am not able to do that currently. Now, I am doing online interviews, but it’s not the same as actually being there. Although Covid has been happening, we are still able to help people and businesses in Connecticut.
Tell us something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.
I usually revert to the fact that I interned at The Tonight Show, but that is on my resume. I just bought a house in the last month during Covid and that was a difficult process so that is something about me that isn’t on my resume.
Are you involved in any college related organizations?
I’m on the board of the Temple University Hartford Alumni chapter. We try to have a few events each year and we usually go to a Yard Goats game, although our events have been put on hold due to Covid-19. It’s been tough but we have been able to email each other and stay connected. I’m also a part of HYPE in Hartford, which is a group of young professionals who host a lot of great events year round. It’s a good group to be a part of.
Have you personally experienced an employment or online purchase scam?
That’s an interesting question but I don’t think so. The only time was when I was in high school when I was ordering a Halloween costume and my credit card was hacked after I made that purchase. I did get the costume, however my credit card was compromised by ordering that product online. It could have been a faulty site, with no protection on it. I would say that’s the only time I have been scammed or had an issue ordering something online.
Have you ever filed a complaint against a company with the Better Business Bureau?
I have not but I did leave some reviews for companies. Also, I always like to tell people that leaving a review for a company doesn’t always have to be negative. If you utilize a company and have an exceptional experience, it’s just as important to share that with the business as you would with a negative review. I have had some bad experiences with companies but I’ve also had great experiences and I know how important positive reviews are to small businesses. If you are happy with how the company interacted with you as a customer, it’s important for the company to see that and for you to be able to tell other potential customers about your experience.
What career accomplishment makes you most proud?
Well, I am still young so I am not that late in my career. However, I am proud of the fact that I have had one or two jobs after college. A lot of people say that it might look bad to hop around jobs but it’s important to do what makes you happy. Although jumping around to different jobs each year is not great, it is a good chance to be able to grow. It is important to grow and learn new things from each job that you had. I think that it is good to grow personally and in your career as well and do things that make you happy. It’s all about being happy and doing things that you enjoy and that’s what I am doing now.
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