Better Business Bureau releases list of what to watch out for
JANUARY 6, 2011 12:30 p.m. (0)
In a listing of the top 10 scams and rip-offs of 2010, the bureau reported that job seekers and cash strapped families have become popular targets.
“With the economy still on the mend, scammers had a field day targeting struggling families who were looking for work and trying to make ends meet,” said Kathy Barrett, president Better Business Bureau. “While some of the most popular scams are perennial problems that have always plagued consumers, some new additions to the list are signs of our tough economic times.”
Here’s the bureau’s top scams, in no particular order, for 2010:
Scams targeting job hunters include attempts to access to personal and fees in order to be considered for the job.
Debt relief scams blossomed by about 30 percent last year, the bureau said in preliminary year-end estimates. Fraudulent debt relief companies often require upfront fees that potentially leave the consumer drowning in even more debt.
Work from home schemes that seem to good to be true often are just that. Some promise to teach the secrets to making money online, others claim to pay for assembling items at home or fees for becoming a mystery shopper. Many victims found their opportunity to work from home was a job fencing stolen goods. In the end, many victims end up losing hundreds, or thousands of dollars
Timeshare scams were one of the fastest growing frauds, up more than 40 percent, the bureau said. Companies claiming to have eager buyers target timeshare owners desperate to get rid of expensive vacation property. The company tells the seller they must pay up front to cover fees. After paying, the seller never hears from the company again.
There is really no such thing as a free trial offer. Misleading offers online blanket the internet and result in thousands of complaints. The offers seem no-risk but complainants say they were repeatedly billed and found it difficult to cancel.
When the knock comes at the door, ignore them. All across the country Better Business Bureaus have gotten complaints about door to door salesmen or itinerant workers who fail to deliver on promises to fix a leaky roof or perform other work. Complaints were up about 40 percent this year. One company in particular, American Shingle, was the focus of 1,000 complaints nationwide.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams target senior citizens. It starts with a letter, or phone call, from a person claiming to be with Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery. The scammer claims that the victim has won millions but must first wire money back to the scammers to cover taxes or fees. The victim wires the money, but the prize never comes.
Thousands fall victim to identity theft. In addition to the traditional low-tech theft there are “phishing” emails, “vishing” phone calls and “smishing” text messages. When the identity theft involves a corporate, or government, data breach millions can fall victim.
Advance fee loan scams prey on consumers and business owners struggling financially. Victims are told they qualify for large loans but must pay upfront fees. The victim wires money but never receives the loan.
Over payment scams target small business owners, landlords and sellers on sites like Craigslist. The scammers overpay for the services or products and then ask for the extra amount back by wire. The original check was forged and the victim is left holding the bag.
Victims of scams can contact their local BBB or file a complaint online at bbb.org.
The bureau recommends always researching a business with them before signing a contract or handing over money.
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