Think Twice About Bedbug Treatments

Cautionary tales about bedbug treatments, eBay scams, phone misdialing and paychecks: Internet Scambusters #450

The thought of bedbugs may send a shiver down your spine but when it comes to bedbug treatments, the Federal Trade Commission is twitching — warning of unrealistic claims about some products.

We have the details, plus where to find more information, in this week’s Snippets issue.

Also under the spotlight: a sneaky new eBay scam, a costly trap for people who misdial phone numbers, and a warning about unintentionally giving away others’ bank account information online.

Let’s check out today’s…

Think Twice About Bedbug Treatments

Bedbug treatments may be something we’d rather not think about. But if we do, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is urging us to think twice — because all is not as it seems.

The same could be said about accepting returns of designer items you sold on eBay and making phone calls that might cost you a small fortune.

These three activities have one thing in common — they mislead us — as we’re about to explain in this week’s Snippets issue.

We also have a warning from a member of the Scambusters team about what not to do when you land your first paycheck.

So let’s get to it.

Bedbug Treatments Warning

Bedbugs have been with us since, well, the days when we first started using beds. They’re tiny critters but they get big time publicity, especially when they show up in hotels.

It makes us worry about what’s crawling around in “the sack” at home and has given rise to a booming bedbug treatment industry.

While it’s true that nobody wants these mini-monsters, the FTC recently issued a warning about so-called remedies, accusing some sellers of making “unrealistic claims” about the effectiveness of their products.

First, the good news: Bedbugs don’t pass on disease. But the bad news: They can survive without food (i.e., you!) for a year, and some of them are resistant to pesticides.

Worse, no one form of treatment will get rid of them and some products are downright risky.

There are some things you can do, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance at their Bed Bug Information page.

But if you prefer to call in a professional, use a qualified and licensed firm that specializes in this particular bug. For more guidance, see this alert from the FTC, FTC Warns: Ineffective Bed Bug Treatments Can Take a Bite Out of Consumers’ Wallets.

Designer Label eBay Scams

We all know about the scam artists on eBay who sell knock-off copies of high-end branded items like watches, sunglasses and clothing.

But here’s a sneaky new trick that turns this eBay scam on its head.

In this version, the seller becomes the victim and the “buyer” is the scammer. And like most con tricks, this one is incredibly simple, although fairly uncommon.

How it works:

  • The seller offers a genuine designer-label product for sale, with some kind of money back guarantee.
  • The crook purchases and pays for the item, then decides to return it for a refund.
  • Instead of returning the original item, the scammer sends a cheap copy, gets his money back, then either keeps or sells the genuine, expensive item.

Seems a bit far-fetched?

Well, precisely this eBay scam was reported a few months back on a forum about selling high-end purses.

The recommended solution: Attach a retail security tag (available online — just do a Google search) and make clear in your listing that refunds will only be given if the item is returned with the tag intact.

“Fat Finger” Phone Scams

Ever misdialed a phone number? You’d be unique if you haven’t; mostly we simply apologize and start again.

But if it’s a toll-free number, you could be in for a nasty shock. An unscrupulous company may own the incorrect number and charge for connecting you to your intended number.

It works because these companies buy up 800 numbers that are very similar to heavily used ones.

You probably won’t even know you misdialed because the company knows who you want to speak to and reroutes the call correctly — but only after charging you for the service via your phone company.

Or they might issue a recorded message suggesting there’s a problem with the number you want, advising you to call a supposed “directory” service for more information.

This new number may have an 800 somewhere in it but the numbers you have to enter in front of it connect you to a premium line.

This trick, which is not illegal if the cost of the call is given upfront, has become unkindly known as “fat finger” dialing, for the obvious reason that people with big hands are more likely to key in the wrong numbers, especially with today’s small number pads.

The solution: Enter the number carefully and listen cautiously to what happens when you connect.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an alert about this scheme, Careless Dialing Could Cost You Money.

Here’s My First Paycheck

Finally, we have a warning about showing off… with the best of intentions.

Scambuster Andrea was alarmed at the outcome of a bit of teen enterprise.

A friend’s son proved a big hit when he offered shoveling services in his neighborhood, so when he got his first check, Mom proudly posted a picture of it online for friends to see.

Of course, that meant anyone else potentially could also see it and read all the account details — everything an identity thief could ask for!

Fortunately for this Mom, Andrea was on the ball and quickly told her to take down the image.

As Andrea says: “These things happen, and it’s easy to see how someone who isn’t savvy about online security risks would want to show friends what her son had achieved. She was understandably proud.

“But it underlines a key piece of advice to all of us: Think very carefully about anything you plan to post online, especially photos. Just ask yourself ‘What might happen if the wrong person sees this?'”

That’s it for this week’s Snippets issue.

Our main message this week is all about exercising caution. We hope we didn’t make you too itchy and twitchy writing about those bedbug treatments!

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.