March 4, 2013
Avoiding the most common scams
This week is National Consumer Protection Week.
The Better Business Bureau released a list of the five most common scams, and how to avoid them.
"Scams often originate online, usually from foreign countries," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "Scammers use 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, or even the BBB," added 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 five most common scams:
1. Fake checks/wire transfer scams – The most successful scams in history use fake checks. The BBB receives calls every day from people who have received fake checks that look real. Regardless of the type of scam, the fake check always comes with the same instructions: deposit the check and wire the money to someone in a foreign country. Within a few days, the check will be returned as counterfeit and the money sent via wire transfer will be gone.
BBB tip: The words ‘wire transfer' should always be a red flag. If you get a check instructing you to deposit it and wire money to someone – for whatever reason – do not do it!
2. Identity theft – Identity theft occurs at home and online, but the fastest growing method is by ‘friendly fraud' where a person's credit cards or social security number are used by a friend, roommate or family member, without their permission.
BBB tip: Check the credit reports for each member of your family, especially your children, on a regular basis to make sure that no new credit accounts have been opened in their names. You can get a free credit report each year from www.annualcreditreport.com
3. Phishing scams – Phishing scams, disguised as emails from a variety of authorities including banks, the FBI, the IRS or the BBB, trick millions of people and businesses into clicking on links and downloading attachments that infect their computers with viruses to steal their personal information.
BBB tip: The IRS and your bank are not going to contact you by email. However, many other companies do communicate by email, so look for red flags like awkward phrasing or grammatical mistakes before clicking on links.
4. Home improvement fraud – Homeowners can be victimized by unscrupulous contractors who take deposits for home repair or home improvement jobs, but never return to do the work.
BBB tips: Do business with local contractors who have a long history of performing work in this area. Before you sign a contract, check the company out on BBB. Read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully. Do not allow work to begin without a signed contract. Do not pay 100 percent of the job upfront.
5. Online shopping scams – Online shoppers can be scammed by counterfeit merchandise, unfilled orders, misleading shipping and handling fees, unauthorized credit card charges, unsecure payment processing and fake shipping emails.
BBB tips: Shop on established, well-known websites that encrypt your payment information. Pay with a credit card or PayPal, not by debit card, a pre-paid card or wire transfer. Check online sellers out on BBB before you purchase.
For more information about how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam, please visit BBB.
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