ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - The Better Business Bureau of West Florida tells 10 News it has named it's "Top-10 Scams" of 2012. The list comes from sources at the local and federal level, as well as consumer complaints:
Top Overpayment/Fake Check Scam: Car Ads
A well-known company is offering $400+ per week to anyone willing to drive around with the company's logo on their car. They send you a check to deposit and then direct you to wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. A week later, the check bounces, the graphic designer is nowhere to be found, and you are out the money you wired.
Top Emergency Scam: Grandparent Scam
The "Grandparent Scam" has been around a while, but is still so prevalent it's worth mentioning again. A grandparent receives a call from a grandchild/niece/nephew/friend who is traveling abroad and gets into a bad situation where he or she needs money right away. Easy rule of thumb - before you wire money in an emergency, check with the supposed victim or other family members to verify the information.
Top Employment Scam: Mystery Shopping
Many secret shopping job offers are nothing more than a variation of the overpayment/fake check scam (above).
The Mystery Shopping Providers Association says it's not the practice of its members to pre-pay shoppers, but if you have your heart set on this type of job, you can find a legitimate gig through its website at www.mysteryshop.org.
Top Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam: Nonexistent Loans
Most of these scams are advertised online and promise things like "no credit check" or "easy repayment terms." The hook: you have to make the first payment upfront, you have to buy an "insurance policy," or there is some other kind of fee that you have to pay up-front to secure the (nonexistent) loan. In 2012, a new, aggressive twist was used: consumers reported being threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn't pay back loans they claim didn't belong to them in the first place. Some got calls at their workplace, even to relatives. The threats of legal action caused some victims to pay even when they knew they didn't owe the money.
Top Phishing Scam: President Obama Will Pay Your Utility Bills
Of all the politically-related scams, this one seemed to be the most prevalent. At the peak of summer with utility costs soaring, consumers got emails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a "new government program" that will pay their utility bills. Victims "registered" with an official-looking website and provided everything scammers needed for identity theft purposes, including bank account information.
Top Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican Phone Lottery
This is an old one that flared up again. In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876), but the person claims to represent BBB (or FBI, or other trusted group). The caller claims you've won a prize (typical haul: $2 million and a Mercedes Benz) but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. There are lots of variations on this; sometimes it's a government grant. If this happens to you, hang up and then file a phone fraud report with the appropriate government agency.
Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets
You get a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook ("ROFL they was taping you" or "What RU doing in this FB vid?" are typical tweets). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn't a new version of Flash; it's a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.
Top Home Improvement Scam: Sandy "Storm Chasers"
BBB spends a lot of time investigating and reporting on home improvement scams, but this year we saw an unusual amount of "storm chaser" activity following Super Storm Sandy. Some were legitimate contractors who came from other areas for the volume of work available. Others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work, and some were out-and-out scam artists who took the money and never did the work. In an emergency, it's tempting to skip reference checking, but that's never a good idea. Next time you need home repairs, find a contractor at www.bbb.org/search.
Top Sales/Rental Scam: Real Stars, Fake Goods
Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. Some scammers sell cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums, while others set up websites and steal your money. Buy directly from team stores and websites, or from legitimate retailers. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scam of the Year: Newtown Charity Scams
Within hours of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, CT, social media pages began cropping up dedicated to the child victims. Some of these pages were fake and attempting to solicit money from those looking to support the actual victims' families. In response to these reports, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offered tips for donors to understand how and when to best support those dealing with such a tragic crisis.
For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scam Stopper.
SOURCE: BBB Press Release