Black Friday Scams

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk… and we aren’t talking about the WrestleMania scene in the Electronics Department! Scams are plentiful on this weekend that officially marks the start of the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into the rotten Mister Grinch!

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.

1. An online deal that’s too good to be true

Scammers need your attention before they can take your money.  Trying to stand out among a flurry of insane deals can result in some rather desirable low prices designed to lure you in. Try to remain clear-headed, maintain your common sense and stick to a plan.

An iPhone X on sale for just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these ridiculously low prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – the gift that keeps on giving, right?

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is so unbelievably cheap. It’s often bait used by scammers to lure you into their card stealing trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping.

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value.

These cards are usually stolen from innocent people. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from.

Be smarter: Steer clear of buying any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price.

3. Bait and switch

You’ve seen this one pop up randomly… Want to be the lucky winner of a $1000 Gift Card? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey.

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too.

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less obvious. Some less reputable retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself traveling across town, battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll find that those items are all sold out. They may have  similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time, energy, and often your money, too.

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with.

4. Delivery problems 

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam.

You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly.

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. And any delivery fee would have been paid for in your original check out. Contact the retailer using phone numbers on their official website (not from the email, you are questioning) if you have any issues with your order.

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer 

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected.

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back.

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card.

Tips to help you shop safely on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

  • Stick to trusted, verified websites. By relying on the brands you already shop with and trusted Black Friday retailers, you’re in a better position to dodge dirty deals.
  • Take advantage of your financial institution’s protection. Credit Union’s and banks employ sophisticated systems to detect potential fraud on debit and credit cards. Many guarantee zero liability and reimbursement for unauthorized debit card purchases. Yours may also allow for shopping through Apple Pay or Android Pay, combining biometrics with other digital safeguards, or even setting up two-step authentication that requires a code from a text message to complete your purchase.
  • Keep an eye on your transactions. Regularly monitor transactions on your cards through your online account, and contact your financial institution immediately if you see any suspicious spending.
  • Avoid purchases on public Wi-Fi. Cyber criminals know how to thwart unsecured Wi-Fi to gain access to the info you send over it. Save your online shopping for more secure home connections.
  • Double-check apps before downloading. Cyber criminals are getting smarter and smarter. There have been instances where they have created fake shopping apps designed to look like the real deal and scoop up your credit card information when you go to make a purchase. Look for red flags like a typo in the name of the app, typos throughout the page and a low number of reviews.

Be educated, be prepared, drink lots of water and relax this holiday shopping season! It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, not your worst nightmare! If you feel like your Credit or Debit Card information has gotten into the wrong hands be sure to report the cards lost or stolen right away.

Call BGI to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself …

Combating Gaslighting: Why even in a no-fault divorce state investigating infidelity remains important.

Gaslighting is an malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to cause self-doubt and alter the victims perception of reality. Like all abuse, it’s based on the need for power, control, or concealment.

Gaslighting can take place in any relationship and a typical scenario is when an intimate partner lies to conceal a relationship with someone else.

The longer gaslighting occurs the more insidious it can be. Initially, you may not realize you’re being affected by it, but gradually you lose trust in your own instincts and perceptions. In time the manipulation can have a serious impact on the victims psychological well being.

How BGI can Help: It’s crucial that you have a strong support system and to validate your reality in order to combat gaslighting. In most instances it is only through truth that one can begin to recover.

After you can acknowledge really what’s going on, you’ll be better able to detach and stop believing or reacting to falsehoods. 

Call BGI to learn more about our services.

Important Reminder GPS Tracking

Important Reminder: USE CAUTION when it comes to using a GPS unit to track a vehicle.

A GPS unit is commonly used to receive communication from a tracking device for various purposes. In Michigan, however, it is illegal to install a tracking device on another individual’s vehicle pursuant to MCL 750.539l.

Legal Exception:

A LICENSED private investigator may use a GPS receiver so long as the investigator is attempting to secure evidence to be used before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee.

This would mean that, under certain circumstances, you could hire a private investigator to track your spouse or another third-party vehicle through a GPS receiver.

Call BGI to learn more.

BGI International Investigation

International Investigations and BGI

With todays technology it is possible for a competent Professional Investigation Agency to offer international assistance to most any client. An experienced Professional Investigation Agency will have a vast network of investigators. To date BGI has conducted investigations in 7 different foreign countries and all across the USA.

If you have a problem in or are looking for someone in a foreign local, do not hesitate to call. While we can never promise you a particular outcome, we certainly have the skills and connections necessary to get the job done.

Never underestimate our reach.

Call BGI to learn more.

Forensic Handwriting Analysis

BGI and Forensic Handwriting Analysis

While many initially think of fingerprints to prove or disprove the author of a document, the answer may be in the handwriting itself.

BGI has successfully used forensic handwriting analysis to resolve cases.

It is important to remember that in order to prove or disprove the author or signer you will need a number of comparable samples. If it is a signature you will need ten or more signature from the same time period. While these can be plus minus a year, they cannot be much older or more recent.

If you want to determine who authored a document or you need to prove of disprove a signature, BGI can help.

See the attached FBI article to learn more about forensic handwriting analysis and call BGI to learn more about how it may be of help to you.

Call BGI to learn more.

BGI Background Investigations and WJQ Radio

Sharing a 2016 radio spot by BGI on WJQ Radio.

Stay safe and call BGI to learn more about background investigations.

 

Executive Level Background Screening

While many believe background checks are most effectively used to screen entry level employees, I respectfully disagree. I believe the most important and cost effective screenings are at the executive or key personnel level. Do not let past accomplishments nor business prowess cause you to overlook the need for due diligence when filing executive level positions.

While any instance of employee theft can have a large impact nothing will rock the core of your organization like a large scale key personnel embezzlement.

The 2016 HISCOX Embezzlement Study:

“Four of every five victim organizations had fewer than 100 employees; just under half had fewer than 25 employees.”

“More than 40% of thefts were committed by an employee in the finance/accounting function.”

“Average loss = $807,443”

“Those with the most access to and control over the money take the most. The positions with the highest frequency of embezzlement are made up of employees with the access to money or more tenured managers who oversee the financial controls.”

“The type of fraud embezzlers can commit varies by industry. What doesn’t change, however, is the need for access to funds. In the majority of cases we studied, managers were more likely than employees to steal.”

While some may be first time offenders, many had a background that indicated a level of risk. Remember to be proactive and do not let this happen simply because you failed to check.

Call BGI to learn more about Executive Level/Key Personnel Background Checks.

Tenant Background Screening:

Do you conduct background checks on your potential tenants?

BGI is often called upon to locate former renters who failed to pay rent and were evicted. Once a judgement is entered,  in an attempt to recover unpaid rent, the client request BGI locate the defendant and serve them with civil process. We start with a background check to locate their current address. In most instances we quickly find a long history of prior evictions. If the client had ran a pre-rental background check this could have been avoided.

The time, effort and cost from unpaid rent, legal fees and investigation costs could decrease dramatically by simply spending a small amount upfront on competent and comprehensive tenant screening

Remember, “Trust but verify.”

Call BGI to learn more.

Social Media Investigations and Digital Forensics

When it comes to spying on social media sites, getting a screenshot of a Facebook post just doesn’t cut it. In many cases, you will need to establish relevance before you investigate a site, and you’ll need more than just a person’s posts—you’ll need the underlying metadata.

As I have said many times, do not rely on screenshots as evidence in court. While it may get you some initial traction, if challenged, it will not hold up.

If you locate evidence of wrongdoing on social media contact the digital forensic experts at BGI Associates. We will help you by properly authenticating and preserving the evidence for later presentation. Whether you are an employer, plaintiff in a civil proceeding or a spouse you must properly collect and preserve any relevant evidence.

If you proceed without taking such steps and your evidence is thrown out, not only will you lose, you may be subject to sanctions and fines.

Call  BGI to learn more.

USE CAUTION make sure they are LICENSED

Unfortunately, even in our industry it is not uncommon for an individual to represent themselves as a licensed investigator, when in fact they are not licensed to provide Professional Investigation Services. In Michigan it is a Felony to provide unlicensed investigative services.

Do your homework and use common sense when acquiring investigation services. If it does feel right it most likely is not. Be cautious of clandestine meetings in parking lots, cash only payments or checks written to individuals and not a business.

Do your homework. Ask questions. Do they have a formalized office space or website? Do they have standardized forms? Do they work from investigative retainers? Do they provide payment receipts?

You can also check them out at the link below. Remember to always make sure the License is in their name.

Verify a Michigan PI License…