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BBB warns residents of oil spill scams

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Scammers are doing it again, and this time they are using the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to attract victims, according to officials with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia, Inc.

The bureau advises individuals to conduct thorough research before making a decision on financial assistance, donating money, volunteering, or accepting a job in relation to the oil spill cause, said Dottie Callina, spokesperson for the BBB.

"It's tragic that scammers are taking advantage of an already disastrous situation," said Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the consumer and business watchdog group. "Unfortunately, history has shown that in the wake of a national disaster, scammers find a variety of ways to prey on the misfortune of others."

Elsberry added that Atlanta's local BBB has not received any complaints of scams related to the oil spill from consumers.

Spokesperson Callina said there are a variety of scams, however, which include "The Job Scam," "The Claim Scam" and "The Charity Scam."

"The Job Scam" usually involves a fictitious oil-spill job advertisement on the Internet, and a person in search of employment, according to Callina.

In the advertisement, scammers ask for an upfront fee for the job, or training requirements to obtain the job, said Callina. In addition, scammers claim they have a contract with British Petroleum (BP), she said.

"If you have been recruited by a company that claims to have a contract with BP, research the business fully and try to confirm with BP that they are a legitimate employer for the oil spill clean-up," said Callina, in a written statement.

"BBB advises job hunters to be wary of any companies that require applicants to pay an upfront fee."

Callina said job openings directly with BP are advertised on the energy company's web site, www.bp.com. Individuals interested in working for a state, such as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi, should visit the chosen state's web site, she added.

Another corrupt strategy, entitled, "The Claim Scam," involves unsolicited e-mails stating recipients qualify for BP compensation, said Callina.

"BP is accepting claims from individuals and businesses for property damage, loss of income and bodily injury or illness," said Callina.

However, individuals should become suspicious of adjusters who ask for fees to expedite the compensation process, she warned.

In "The Charity Scam," scammers act as telemarketers, representing charity organizations, in an attempt to steal money from unwary victims, said Callina.

She said people should be aware that donating money, directly, or volunteering for the actual clean-up, is not allowed. But people can volunteer in several areas, including shoreline monitoring, and food programs for needy families in the affected areas.

BBB President Elsberry said those assisting, directly, in the oil spill clean-up have had HAZMAT (hazardous materials) training, to properly handle the substances.