The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 26, 2013

Scam Jam to be held Wednesday in Huntsville

By Budd McLaughlin

— Chances are you or someone you know has been targeted by a scam whether on the phone, in person or over the Internet.

You know, the “Nigerian prince” who needs your help, or the door-to-door marketers or the one that’s known as the “grandparents scam.”

“That’s where you get an email or a phone call in the middle of the night from your ‘grandson’ who says ‘I’m in jail’ or ‘I’m in the hospital’ and needs you to send money to help him,” said Belinda McCormick, vice president of operations at the Better Business Bureau. “The scammers stalk online, so be careful what you post.”

These and other scams will be discussed Wednesday at the Scam Jam Fraud Summit. The Better Business Bureau serving North Alabama has teamed with TARCOG (Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments), SALT (Seniors & Law enforcement Together) and PEACE (Prevention of Elder Abuse and Criminal Exploitation) for the panel format at the Huntsville Marriott. It’s from 9-11:30 a.m. and the doors open at 8:30. The event is free and limited to the first 200 registrants. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

Topics will include investment fraud, Medicare fraud, top scams of the year, home improvement schemes, sweepstakes offers and others. To register, call the BBB at 256-533-1640, ext. 0, email or visit

“It will be a panelist-type format,” McCormick said. “It’s not going to be just speeches so come prepared with questions.

“Be prepared to learn.”

The panelists will include representatives from the Alabama Securities Commission, Alabama Attorney General’s Office, Better Business Bureau, TARCOG’s Senior Medicare Patrol programs, as well as area law enforcement agencies. McCormick said they will have informational handouts.

“Fraud seems to be growing at a tremendous rate, especially as new technologies develop each day, so the best defense is staying aware of the latest schemes,” said Michele Mason, president of BBB serving North Alabama.  “This event is designed to provide individuals with the tools they need to identify current types of fraud and the best ways to protect themselves from falling victim.”

McCormick said the scams happen every day in the area and said some are even modified versions of older, well-known scams.

“We just had a complaint of a roofing scam,” she said. “They used the name of a company that’s been out of business for a year and had the same name. The victim took out a $4,000 signature loan. They went to the bank with her and took out a check made out to her and him.

“They started the work but didn’t come back to finish.”

She advises checking out contractors personally.

“Trust but verify,” she said. “Particularly with major investments. We want to educate consumers on how to prevent these types of scams.

“Before you get caught up in them … not after.”