BBB Outlines Top Scams, Provides Scam Prevention Pointers

Every year, thousands of consumers and business owners contact the Better Business Bureau about scams and fraudulent schemes of all scopes and sizes. While many are new variations on existing scams, scammers get more savvy and enterprising  every year in how they fleece consumers.

Following is a list of the common scams the BBB sees Top Ten Scams:

#10 Sweepstakes Scam: You’ve won a contest! Or the lottery! Or the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes! All you have to do to claim your prize is to pay some fees or taxes in advance so they can release your prize… This is not a new scam, but it is a perennial problem.

#9 Click Bait Scam: This one takes many forms, but the most notorious of the past year was when the Malaysian Airline plane went missing (“click here for video”). Other click bait schemes use celebrity images, fake news, and other enticing stories to get you to unintentionally download malware.

#8 Robocall Scam: The  dubious Rachel from Cardholder Services” made a resurgence in 2014. This scam claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates and takes personal information – including your credit card number – and then charges fees to your card.

#7 Government Grant Scam: You get a call saying you’ve been awarded a government grant for thousands of dollars. It may even mention a program you’ve heard about in the news. All you have to do to collect your grant is pay a couple hundred in fees by wire transfer or prepaid debit card…

#6 Emergency Scam: This one is sometimes called the “grandparent scam” because it often preys on older consumers. You get a call or email from your grandchild or other relative who was injured, robbed or arrested while traveling overseas and needs money ASAP.

#5 Medical Alert Scam: Another one that preys on  the elderly. You get a call or a visit from a company claiming a concerned family member ordered you a medical alert device in case you have an emergency. They take your credit card or banking information but you never receive anything.

#4 Copycat Website Scam: You get an email, text message or social media post about a terrific sale or exciting new product. You click through and it looks just like a popular retailer’s site. But when you order, you either get a cheap counterfeit or nothing at all… and now they have your credit card number!

#3 “Are You Calling Yourself?” Scam: Scammers can make a call look like it’s coming from anywhere. The latest trick puts your number in the Caller ID, which piques your curiosity and gets you to pick up the phone or return the call… and then they’ve snagged you in whatever scam they are running.

It was almost a tie for the top spot this year, because BBB sees this one every day:

#2 Tech Support Scam: You get a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from Microsoft (or Norton, or Apple) about a problem on your computer. They say if you give “tech support” access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your personal information.

And according the  BBB,  the top Scam of the Year is:

#1 Arrest Scam: You receive an ominous phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the IRS in the United States or the CRA in Canada). They are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty… but you can avoid it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Another variation on this is that you’ll be arrested for an overdue payday loan. Whatever the “violation,” it’s scary to be threatened with arrest, and many people pay out of fear.

Don’t be a victim

Before falling prey to a scam artist, think hard and fast. A few key pointers from the BBB:

  • Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
  • Research the organization in question. Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
  • Never provide personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
  • Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
  • If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business from the number on your bill or the back of your credit card.
  • Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
  • Never send money for an emergency situation unless you’ve been able to verify the emergency.

For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scam Stopper. For more information on investment scams, go to BBB Smart Investing, a partnership with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

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