If you can spot a scam when it comes your way, you have a better chance of not falling for it. How do you know what to look for? The Better Business Bureau just released its“Top 10 scams of 2013.”
“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, BBB spokeswoman.“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.”
– The Affordable Care Act scam takes the“prize” as the scam of the year, the BBB says. Scammers used the act as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Scammers would call claiming to be from the federal government and saying the would-be victim needed a new insurance card or Medicare card. However, before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information. They may have your bank’s routing number and ask for your bank account number, credit card, Social Security number or other personal information. Sharing such information puts you at risk for identity theft.
– Medical alert scam – With promises of a“free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and claimed to be offering the system free of charge 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 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.
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Easy rule – 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 – Scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers on Ebay and other online marketplaces into shipping goods without receiving payment. Usually the buyer claims it’s an“emergency” 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.
– Arrest warrant scam – 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 a law enforcement officer. 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.
– Invisible home improvements – These scams involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. Often they offer to work on roofs, chimneys, air ducts or other areas that you can’t see. 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.
– Casting call scam – 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. 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.”
– Foreign currency scam – Scammers 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.
– Scam texts – Known as“smishing,” these are designed 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 on your smartphone.
– Do not call scams – The National Do Not Call Registry offers consumers a free way to reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers call anyway, of course, and they’ve even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Do Not call list. In one variation, scammers ask for personal information. In another, scammers try to charge a fee to join the registry. Either way, just hang up.
– Fake friend scam on Facebook – If you hit Accept, you may have just friended a scammer. A popular recent scam has been the theft of people’s online identities to create fake profiles. 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.
For more information on these and other scams, go to http://www.bbb.org/council/bbb-scam-stopper/.