Council of Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau Names “BBB Top Ten Scams of 2013”February 11, 2014Arlington, VA
– Every year, Better Business Bureau
receives thousands of calls and emails from consumers who have been scammed… or from the lucky ones who have dodged scams by being wary. Some scams are widespread, getting a lot of people for small amounts. Others are more narrowly focused, but take people for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. 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 U.S. and Canada, culls its annual “Top Ten Scams” list from a variety of sources, including reports from consumers, some of whom have been victims of scams; from federal agencies; and from other reliable information sources.
“These are not necessarily the scams with the biggest losses, or those with the most victims, as many people don’t report scams or even know they’ve been victimized,” said Katherine Hutt, CBBB spokesperson. “These are the scams that seemed to be the most widespread, aimed at the most vulnerable, growing in popularity, or just plain audacious. Scams are every-changing, but we want to help people recognize them and be prepared the next time they get a suspicious call, email, text or solicitation.”BBB Top Ten Scams of 2013Medical Alert Scam –
A new twist to the telemarketing scam hit 2013 hard. With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. Inmany cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to “verify” their identity and, as a result, 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. Easy rule of thumb – be wary of “free” offers that require your personal information upfront and always verify with the supposed friend or family member that the caller says paid for the service.Auction Reseller Scam –
Many people turn to Ebay and other online auctions sites to sell used items they no longer need, and relatively new electronics seem to do especially well. But scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers into shipping goods without receiving payment. Usually the buyer claims it’s an “emergency” of some sort – a child’s birthday, a member of the military shipping out – and asks the seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming the payment, but emails are easy to fake. Always confirm payment in your Ebay and PayPal accounts before shipping, especially to an overseas address.For infographic, click here.
Arrest Warrant Scam –
This one seemed to really take off last autumn. In this scam, con artists are taking advantage of technology that can change what is visible on Caller ID, and allowing them to pose as the office of the local sheriff or other law enforcement agency. They call to say there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these "police" don't take credit cards; only a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do. Sometimes these scams seem very personal; the scammer may refer to a loan or other financial matter. It may just be a lucky guess, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are about to be arrested.Invisible Home Improvements –
Home improvement scams vary little from year to year, and most involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. The hardest for homeowners to detect, and therefore the easiest for scammers to pull off, are repairs or improvements to the areas of your home that you can’t see: roofs, chimneys, air ducts, crawl spaces, etc. Scammers may simply knock at your door offering a great deal because they were “in the neighborhood,” but more and more they are using telemarketing, email and even social media to reach homeowners. Helpful videos on YouTube can add legitimacy to a contractor, but consumers have no way of knowing if the video is real or “borrowed” from a legitimate contractor. Check out home contractors at bbb.org
before saying yes.Casting Call Scam –
This is not as widespread as some other scams, but it seems to have really been on the increase in recent years, thanks to the popularity of television talent shows like “American Idol” and “Project Runway.” Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants, etc., and use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try out for parts that don't exist. There are several ways this plays out. It can simply be an unscrupulous way to sell acting lessons, photography services, etc., or it can be an outright scam for things like fees for online “applications” or upcoming “casting calls.” Even worse, the information provided on an online application could be everything a scammer needs for identity theft.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 even more appealing. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi Dinar, Vietnamese Dong or, most recently, the Egyptian Pound. The plan is that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in. Unlike previous hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it's extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.