Whether it’s a link to an “embarrassing” video of yourself in a direct message on Twitter or a loan from a bank guaranteeing no credit check, scams are all around us. The Better Business Bureau investigates scams like these, and many others, every year.
Here are the bureau’s biggest scams of 2012, including uncredited home repair programs, phone calls from Jamaica, and fake sports memorabilia. To learn more, visit the Better Business Bureau’s website. Next
With this scam, a big company will pay you more than $400 a week if you stick their ad to your car, paying you just for driving around. They send you a check, which you’re supposed to deposit into your account and wire part of the money to a graphic designer who will customize the ad. It all seems OK until the check bounces, you never hear from the designer, and you lose the money you wired. Next
A well-known and established solicitation, the so-called “grandparent scam” targets the elderly. Seniors receive e-mails from a niece/nephew/grandchild saying he or she is traveling abroad, and was mugged, arrested, or hurt and needs money wired to him or her right away, but “don’t tell mom and dad.” The FBI said it has been getting reports on these scams since 2008, and because social media make it easier to learn things about people and effectively tailor the spam e-mails, the complaints have only increased.
Shopaholics who need some extra cash might see mystery shopping as the perfect answer, but scammers are on to them. Many mystery shopping websites, including the two that New York State shut down in September, won’t do anything but hurt your bank account.
In New York’s case, the Huffington Post reported victims were sent bad checks of $2,000, told to keep $300 as pay, and then told to wire the rest of the money to a Western Union to track how quickly it went through. But once the victim’s bank identified the checks as fake, he or she lost $1,700 and was responsible for paying it back. Next
Loan scams are nothing new, but this year BBB found a new twist: consumers who were threatened with lawsuits if they didn’t “pay back” loans they never requested. The bureau found that some victims actually paid loans they didn’t even owe because they were so embarrassed and afraid of being seen as delinquents.
Several other scams required up-front payments and then the purchase of an “insurance policy” or some other loan-securing payment. Next
White House-paid utilities?
As the summer came into full swing and everyone’s utility bills became more expensive, e-mails, letters, and even door-to-door solicitations about a government program to pay those bills made their way around the country.
In some cases the scammers knew the name of the victims’ utility companies, and many fell for it. According to ABC News, some customers received phone calls saying if they didn’t disclose personal information — just enough for the scammers to steal their identities — their utilities would be shut off. Next
A Better Business Bureau scam?
Victims received calls from persons in Jamaica claming to be from the Better Business Bureau or other trusted groups, saying they had won some sort of grand prize – money, a car, etc. – but that they had to pay a fee to collect the prize. People often fell for this one because they believe the 876 area code for Jamaica is in the United States.
Fox News reported in April 2012 that the Jamaican and US governments set up a task force in 2009 to crack down on this problem, but since then it has only gotten worse. To solve this, BBB said to hang up the phone and file a phone fraud report with the correct government agency. Next
Fake Facebook tweets
Some Twitter users received direct messages from followers with a message and a link, saying it leads to an embarrassing photo or video of them on Facebook. Some of the lines used included: “there are some real nasty things being said about you here [link],” and “ROFL... OMG I’m laughing so hard at this picture of u my friend found.
In fear of Internet embarrassment, the recipients click the link and were prompted to update their Flash player. Clicking won’t update the Flash player – instead, it allows a virus or malware to enter the computer or smartphone to steal confidential information. To solve the problem, Twitter recommends changing your password, your apps permissions, and your passwords for those apps. Next
Sandy ‘storm chasers’
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers were in dire need of home improvements, so several hired tree removers and other home repair specialists for help. Some contractors were legitimate contractors who came in from around the country, but others were scam artists who took money and never did the work. The New York State Senate issued a news release in December cautioning state residents to watch out for anyone who says the repairs must be made immediately, or offers a discounted price if you refer others but only if you buy today, among other things.
If you’re in need of a legitimate contractor, the BBB recommends searching for one in its website, where it has tens of thousands of accredited businesses. Next
Sports memorabilia scams
Sports memorabilia is always a big way for scammers to make money, and with this summer’s London Olympics the number of falsely autographed baseball and illegitimate uniforms only seemed to increase. Some of the knockoffs were sold cheap on the street in front of stadiums, others online.
The Better Business Bureau recommends buying team memorabilia and merchandise directly from team stores or websites, or authorized retailers. Next
Preying on Newtown victims
After the Newtown, Conn., massacre several Facebook pages dedicated to the victims started popping up—some were asking for money. One of these people, Nouel Alba of New York City, posed as an aunt of one of the victims and used her Facebook account, phone calls, and text messages to raise money for a so-called “funeral fund.” She was charged with lying to FBI agents who were investigating fraud instances similar to hers, the Huffington Post reported.
Although the BBB estimates the amount of total funds taken and people stolen from to be only a few, the organization has ranked it as its “Top Scam of 2012” because of the audacity behind committing such a scam. Back to the beginning
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