The Better Business Bureau serving the Southern Piedmont of N.C. and S.C. has released a list of the top 10 scams of 2012 and the worst scam of the year.
Most of these scams originated online, often from foreign countries. Scammers used the anonymity provided by the Internet to victimize millions of people, efficiently and effectively.
"Online, a scammer can pose as your neighbor, or someone from your bank, the IRS, the FBI, or even the BBB," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "When the person who contacts you pretends to be someone you think you know, you let your guard down and miss red flags that spell scam."
The BBB's top 10 scams of 2012 include:
1. Fake checks/wire transfer scams – The most successful scams in history use fake checks. The BBB received calls every day last year from people who got fake checks for a variety of reasons – for work at home jobs, to pay taxes on ‘winnings', or to pay ‘collateral' to get a loan. Regardless of the scam, the fake check always came with the same instructions: deposit the check and wire the money to someone in a foreign country. Within a few days, the check was returned as counterfeit and the money sent via wire transfer was gone.
"When you get a check that looks real, you need to proceed with caution," said Bartholomy. "Call the BBB or go to your bank to have the check evaluated, but do not deposit the check and wire money or you will be liable for it."
2. Identity theft – Identity theft occurred at home and online, but the fastest growing method was by ‘friendly fraud' where a person's credit cards or social security number were used by a friend, roommate or family member, without their permission.
3. Phishing scams – Phishing scams disguised as emails from a variety of ‘authorities' such as banks, the IRS or the BBB, tricked millions of people and businesses into clicking on links and downloading attachments that infected their computers with viruses to steal their personal information.
4. Home improvement fraud/storm chasers – Homeowners throughout the northeastern United States were victimized by unscrupulous contractors after super storm Sandy, including ‘storm chasers', who took deposits for home repair or home improvement jobs, but never returned to do the work.
5. Online shopping scams – Last year was a record year for online sales, and online sales scams. Shoppers were scammed by counterfeit merchandise, unfilled orders, misleading shipping and handling fees, unauthorized credit card charges, unsecure payment processing, fake shipping emails and more.
6. Social media scams – With more than one billion users, Facebook was the largest social media community for scammers to target victims last year. Fake friends, clickjacking, cyber stalking, and viruses linked to clicking on ‘LIKE' buttons, were just a few of the scams that lurked online.
7. Fake lotteries, sweepstakes and prizes - ‘Winners' were required to provide money, a credit card or social security number to claim their ‘prize' which led to unauthorized charges or identity theft.
8. Employment/job scams – Work-at-home job scams snared many job hunters because they promised full-time pay for part-time hours, with little or no experience needed for jobs that involved fraudulent activities like money laundering and shipping stolen goods.
9. Credit repair scams – Credit repair scams promised to fix bad credit for a price and required upfront payment, in violation of state debt adjusting laws.
10. Advance fee loan scams - Online ‘lenders' promised loans, but then required an advance fee as ‘insurance' or ‘collateral' via wire transfer. After the money was wired, the consumer was told they didn't qualify for the loan and they had no way to get their money back.
Worst scam of the year: The BBB's worst scam of 2012 involved an individual who set up a fake charitable fund in the name of a child who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School to trick donors into giving money. "Although the number of people affected by this scam was limited," said Bartholomy, "it demonstrated how callous scammers are that they would defraud a devastated family, community and nation."
For more information about how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam, please visit www.bbb.org.
Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.
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