National Consumer Protection Week Daily Tip: Common Scams

scam imageScammers are pretty doggone persistent. They come at you through emails, phone calls and even text messages. You have to keep your guard up as a consumer, because scam artists will do whatever they can to separate you from your money.

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Your Better Business Bureau would like to discuss some common scams, so you can avoid being ripped off.

Many times con artists will try and build your trust through emotion, or something you really need. They often focus their efforts on the elderly, the most vulnerable and trusting –- because they believe they will be able to gain that trust quicker, with less effort. With today’s technology, we’re all vulnerable, so let’s now go through a few popular ones that we see time and time again.

BBB: Common Scams

  • Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams
  • Work at Home Scams
  • Door to Door Scams
  • Phishing Attempts

1) Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams

Victims typically receive a letter in the mail from a supposed lottery or organization claiming they have won a substantial prize. The catch is that the victims are required to wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers, allegedly to cover taxes or other administrative fees.

2) Job Scams

These scams come in a variety of forms, but typically are either bogus work-at-home opportunities, “mystery shopping” offers or phony job postings on websites.

The common thread in most job scams is they require some form of advance fee. This can be for home start-up kits, evaluating a MoneyGram or Western Union service or for background checks and applications.

The end result is either lost money or identity theft

3) Door to Door Scams

Depending on the time of year, scammers employ several door to door schemes on unsuspecting consumers. BBB is aware of product pitches from magazine sales or food items or phony contractors offering repair services after a severe storm.
Consumers generally contact BBB after they have paid substantial advance fees or paid in full for products or services that were never performed or delivered.

4) Phishing Attempts

Emails or ads on social media websites and search engine results pages take various forms such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or even a friend.
Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing attempt is to trick victims into providing sensitive information or infect their computer with viruses and malware.
Many times, these attempts increase with major national headlines or around the time of year where consumer spending is high like tax-free weekend or the holidays.

Additional tips:

Where/When are people most likely to get scammed?

Consumers become more targeted by scammers during periods of the year when they are likely to spend more money than usual. This includes events like major holidays and tax-free weekend.

Additionally, BBB uses the phrase “today’s headlines are tomorrow’s scams” often because scammers try to leverage attention or curiosity with a national issue into a way to steal money or personal information. Examples this year would include the earthquake in Haiti and the Texas Appliance Rebate Program.

How can scams be prevented?

Consumers can avoid the most common scams by:

  1. Never wiring money, especially to an organization or someone you don’t know.
  2. Never paying money in advance for major repair work or for job applications.
  3. Using credit or debit cards instead of cash as these offer more protection.
  4. Avoiding curiosity by not clicking on links or opening emails from people you don’t know.