Every year, the BBB receives thousands of calls and emails from consumers who have been scammed or from the lucky ones who have dodged scams by being wary.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Data Book estimates that Americans lost $1.4 billion to scams in 2012.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for the 113 local BBBs across the United States and Canada, culled its annual Top 10 Scams list from a variety of sources, including reports from consumers. They include:
Medical Alert Scam
With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information and were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded.
Auction Reseller Scam
Scammers fool people selling items on Ebay and other online auctions into shipping goods without receiving payment. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming the payment. Always confirm payment in your Ebay and PayPal accounts before shipping.
Arrest Warrant Scam
Con artists pose as a local law enforcement agency and claim there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. These “police” only accept wire transfers or pre-paid debit cards.
These scams usually involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. Scammers may simply knock on your door offering a great deal, but they also use telemarketing, email and social media. Check out home contractors at bbb.org before saying yes.
Casting Call Scam
Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants and use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try out for parts that don’t exist.
Foreign Currency Scam
Investments in foreign currency can sound like a great idea, and scammers frequently use real current events and news stories to make their pitches. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase foreign currencies. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.
One major tactic is the use of scam texts, known as “smishing,” to steal personal information.
They look like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link and they get your banking information. You may inadvertently download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone.
Do Not Call Scams
The National Do Not Call Registry offers consumers a free way to reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers pretend to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Dot Not call list. They ask for personal information or charge a fee to join the free registry.
Fake Friend Scam
A popular scam has been the theft of people’s online identities to create fake profiles on Facebook. A new Friend can learn a lot about you to scam you later, “recommend” sketchy websites that download malware, use your account to scrap information on your other Friends, even impersonate a military officer or other trustworthy person to perpetrate a romance scam.
Scam of the Year
Affordable Care Act Scam. Scammers called claiming to be from the federal government and said the would-be victim needed a new insurance or Medicare card. Before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information.
For more, go to BBB Scamstopper or BBB.org.