Top 10 Scams of 2015
Overpayment/Fake check scam: Ads on cars
The typical online ad says, "Get Paid Just for Driving Around"--naming a prominent company that offers $400+ per week to drive around with its logo all over your car. The scammers send a check to be deposited, requiring tht part of the money be wired as payment for the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. A week later, the check bounces, the graphic designer is nowhere to be found and you are out the money wired.
Emergency Scam: Grandparent scam
The "Grandparent Scam" has been around awhile, but it's still prevalent. Grandchild/niece/nephew/friend is traveling abroad and calls/texts/e-mails to say he or she has been mugged/arrested/hurt and needs money right away. You send money only to find out the real person is safe at home. The FBI says that thanks to social media, it's becoming easier for scammers to tell a more plausible story, as they use real facts from the supposed victim'slife shared on social media ("Remember that great camera I got for Christmas?""I'm in France to visit my old college roomate."). Before you wire money, check with the supposed victim or their family to make sure they are really traveling. Odds are they are safe at home.
Employment Scam: Mystery shopping
For those who love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement income. Taking advantage of its popularity, scammers offer secret-shopper jobs that are a variation on the overpayment/fake-check scam. Sometimes, they even include the evaluation of the wire company as part of the job, telling consumers to send back part of the money. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association says it's not the practice of its members to prepay shoppers, but if you have your heart set on this type of job, you can find legitimate offers at www.mysteryshop.org.
Advance-Fee/Prepayment Scam: Non-existent loans
Loan scams continued to fester in 2012. Most scams advertise online and promise things like "no credit check" or "easy repayment terms." The hook: You have to make the first payment up front, buy an "insurance policy" or pay a fee to "secure" the loan. A new, aggressive twist on loan scams involves consumers being threatened with lawsuits and law-enforcement action if they don't "pay back" loans they have never taken out in the first place. Some receive calls at their place of work, even to relatives. the embarrassment of being thought of as a delinquent causes some to pay even when they don't owe money.
Phishing Scam: President Obama will pay your utility bills
Of all the politically related scams, the scam stating President Barack Obama would pay consumers' utility bills seemed the most prevalent. At the peak of summer, with utility costs soaring, consumers received e-mails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a "new government program" to pay their utility bills. Victims "registered" at an official-looking website and provided enough personal and financial information for scammers to steal their identities.
Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican phone lottery
In this scam, the calls come from area code 876 in Jamaica, but the person claims to represent the BBB, the FBI or another trusted agency. The caller says you have won a terrific prize, which typically is $2 million and a Mercedes Benz. The catch? You have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. There are many variations of this scam, sometimes offering a government grant. Consumers areencouraged to hang up and file a phone-fraud report with the appropriate government agency.
Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook tweets
Two top social-media sites were exploited in one of this year's top scams. You get a direct message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook ("What RU doing in this FB vid?" is a typical tweet). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the video could possibly be, but you get an error message that states you need to update Flash or another video player. However, the file isn't a new version of Flash; it's a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smartphone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.
Home Improvement Scam: Sandy "storm chasers"
The BBB spends a lot of time investigating and reporting home-improvement scams, but this year saw an unusual amount of "storm chaser" activity following superstorm Sandy. Some legitimate contractors came from other areas to supplement the the volume of work available, while others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work; some were even out-and-out scam artists who took money and never did any work. In an emergency, it's tempting to skip reference checking, but that's when it might be needed the most. The BBB reminds consumers that tens of thousands of accredited businesses in the home-contracting field are available and committed to upholding its standards of trust. Next time you need home repairs, find a contractor at www.searchbbb.org.
Sales Scam: Real stars: fake goods
Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to keep their hands in your pockets all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers sold cheap knockoffs in front of stadiums; others set up websites and stole money, never having any goods to begin with. Counterfeit goods arenot only a rip-off because the merchandise is usually shoddy but are also a rip-off for the teams, athletes, designers and artists who create, license and sell the real items. Buy directly from team stores, websites and legitimate retailers. You'll pay a little more, but it will be the real deal. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scam of the Year: Newtown charity scams
Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., social-media pages dedicated to the victims began cropping up...and some were scams asking for money. The FBI arrested one woman for posing as the aunt of one of the children killed, and state and federal agencies are investigating other possible fraudulent and misleading solicitations. In response to these reports, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers tips for donors to understand how and when to best support those dealing with such a tragic crisis. Although the number of people defrauded and the total dollars stolen are most likely low, the cynicism and sheer audacity of these scams merits listing in the top ten scams of 2012.
Top 10 Scams of 2014
Emails suggesting that they are the subject of a Better Business Bureau complaint...
According to the BBB, anyone who opens such an e-mail to read the so-called complaint will unleash a malicious computer virus that can steal passwords and other personal information.
A host of online job sites offer hope to the unemployed. But many e-mails, websites and online applications are actually phishing scams that seek to steal your identity. Some of these companies even conduct interviews. Many will ask you to fill out credit-report information that include questions about bank accounts.
Sweepstakes and lottery scam
They claim you won money or a large prize, but in order to claim it you must provide a small amount of money. One such scam claimed to be from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promising a $1 million prize. To verify a real contest, go directly to a company's home page.
Social media/online dating scam
Messages on social-network sites appear to come from a friend. They can't wait for you to check out the latest viral video. But opening one of these can lead to downloading a worm that logs into your social-media account, sends similar messages to your friends, and searches for your personal data.
Home Improvement scam
They knock on your door and offer you a deal on services. Often, they identify a serious problem and say they can fix it for you at a much cheaper cost than you could get from another company. The BBB said the worst of these scammers show up after a natural disaster.
The BBB warns that Craigslist and Western Union are used for check-cashing scams. A buyer gives you a check for more than they owe and asks you to deposit it into your bank account and then send them the difference via Western Union. Several days later, the bank contacts you to tell you the check is no good.
These scams are designed to steal your personal information through phone inquiries or by attacking your computer. One disguised itself as official communication from the National Automated Clearing House Association, which facilitates electronic transactions. The e-mail claims a transaction did not go through and asks you to click on a link.
Identity theft scam
Some hotels are warning about a scam in which guests receive calls in the middlee of the night purportedly from the desk clerk who needs to verify your credit information. Of course, it isn't the desk clerk.
Companies offer assistance with mortgages or debt relief with names and websites similar to legitimate ones. Many ask for up-front fees and don't offer any help.
Internet penny auctions are luring consumers with promises of valuable products far below retail price. What they don't tell you is that every bid is going to cost you as much as $1 and that if you don't win, you still lose your money.
Online Fraud Information
Fact Checking Resources
- Check the background of your financial adviser
- Verify that your adviser is a licensed insurance agent
- Check the current rate of return on CDs or money-market accounts
- If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud
- If you want to file a complaint about a licensed insrance agent or insurance company
- If you suspect elder abuse
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