What were the Top 10 scams in 2013? Here’s our listing and graphic

Medical Alert ScamA new twist to the telemarketing scam hit 2013 hard. With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to “verify” their identity and, as a result, were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded. Easy rule of thumb – be wary of “free” offers that need your personal information upfront and always verify with the supposed friend or family member that the caller says paid for the service.Top Ten Scams Small

Auction Reseller ScamMany people turn to Ebay and other online auctions sites to sell used items they no longer need, and relatively new electronics seem to do especially well. But scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers into shipping goods without receiving payment. Usually the buyer claims it’s an “emergency” of some sort – a child’s birthday, a member of the military shipping out – and asks the seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming the payment, but emails are easy to fake. Always confirm payment in your Ebay and PayPal accounts before shipping, especially to an overseas address. For infographic, click here.

Arrest Warrant ScamThis one seemed to really take off last autumn. In this scam, con artists are taking advantage of technology that can change what is visible on Caller ID, and allowing them to pose as the office of the local sheriff or other law enforcement agency. They call to say there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these “police” don’t take credit cards; only a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do. Sometimes these scams seem very personal; the scammer may refer to a loan or other financial matter. It may just be a lucky guess, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are about to be arrested.

Invisible Home ImprovementsHome improvement scams vary little from year to year, and most involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. The hardest for homeowners to detect, and the easiest for scammers to pull off, are repairs or improvements to the areas of your home that you can’t see: roofs, chimneys, air ducts, crawl spaces, etc. Scammers may simply knock at your door offering a great deal because they were “in the neighborhood,” but more and more they are using telemarketing, email and even social media to reach homeowners. Helpful videos on YouTube can add legitimacy to a contractor, but consumers have no way of knowing if the video is real or “borrowed” from a legitimate contractor. Check out home contractors at bbb.org before saying yes.

Casting Call ScamThis is not as widespread as some other scams, but it seems to have really been on the increase in recent years, thanks to television talent shows like “American Idol” and “Project Runway.” Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants, etc., and use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try out for parts that don’t exist. There are several ways this plays out. It can simply be an unscrupulous way to sell acting lessons, photography services, etc., or it can be an outright scam for things like fees for online “applications” or upcoming “casting calls.” Even worse, the information provided on an online application could be everything a scammer needs for identity theft.

Foreign Currency ScamInvestments in foreign currency can sound like a great idea, and scammers often use real events and news stories to make their pitches even more appealing. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi Dinar, Vietnamese Dong or, most recently, the Egyptian Pound. The plan is that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in. Unlike previous hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.

Scam TextsWith online and mobile banking skyrocketing, it’s not a surprise that scams quickly follow. One major tactic recently is scam texts, known as “smishing,” to steal personal information. They look like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link on your smart phone. Banks of all sizes have been targeted, and details of the scam vary, but the outcome is the same: scammers get your banking information, maybe even your ATM number and PIN. You may even inadvertently download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone.

Do Not Call ScamsThe National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.) or the National Do Not Call List (Canada) offer consumers a free way to cut telemarketing calls. Scammers call anyway, of course, and they’ve even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Dot Not Call list! In one variation, scammers ask for personal information, such as your name, address and Social Security/Social Insurance number. In another, scammers try to charge a fee to join the registry. Either way, just hang up. These services are free, but sharing personal information with a scammer could cost you a lot.

Fake Friend ScamDid you ever get a Friend Request on Facebook from someone you already thought was your Friend? If you hit Accept, you may have just “friended” a scammer. A popular recent scam has been the theft of people’s online identities to create fake profiles, which can be used in different ways. A new Friend can learn a lot about you to scam you later, “recommend” sketchy websites that download malware, use your account to scrap information on your other Friends, even impersonate a military officer or other trustworthy person to perpetrate a romance scam. Be careful on social media, keep your privacy settings high, and don’t share confidential information. You can’t always be sure that your Friends are really your friends.

Scam of the Year

Affordable Care Act Scam Scammers had a field day with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), using it as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Scammers would call claiming to be from the federal government and saying the would-be victim needed a new insurance card or Medicare card. However, before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information. Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank’s routing number and ask you to provide your account number. Or, they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information. But sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft.


1 Comment

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One response to “What were the Top 10 scams in 2013? Here’s our listing and graphic

  1. Mark Burrows

    Although Americans are serious conflicted about health care and really have no trust in the government having their hands involved in providing a program, and would rather leave it to private enterprise, is extremely confusing to Canadian and British citizens who have singular nationalized health care that is affordable and equal to everyone rich or poor. The rich can still go out and buy perk policies to get plush private rooms and all sorts of extra amenities but they do not get any more special treatment from the hospital staff, private staff are employed to suit their needs.
    Point is, there are very very few private hospitals, and even they are not allowed to turn anyone away, they must stabilize and arrange transportation to a non private hospital. Although we usually get stuck for the ride since in some places ambulances are nothing more than taxi cabs with a red cross on them, they no longer carry paramedics, the fire department has the paramedics and they use to have the ambulances, and when the ambulance comes screaming, and a fire truck with the closest paramedic comes screaming, the closest police come screaming to do crowd control. That’s a lot of screaming for a bad case of indigestion. The ambulance service charges both the medical system and the patient. Municipal taxes pay for the fire trucks and the police who love to ramp it up in the middle of the night.
    But the point is, Canada and the UK are fighting to keep their singular health plan in place and not let it go to private enterprise and the high cost of hospital care.
    Yes, there are plenty of kinks in the Obamacare program, but if people think that if the Republicans get in and see that they can build on, trust me, they will not abolish it. They will just fix some of the bugs in the system, claim that they created a whole new system and no one will remember Obama for being the one who brought it in.
    The other on of note is the currency scam. There are plenty of people who are making a great deal of money trading currency, but these people have learned the system not by buying into some pitch or program, they learned how to do it out of pure research. It is a beautiful thing because those who have learned and a good deal of it has been by trial and error, are now experts in their field. Such people would never share their knowledge. Why? Because the more people doing it, the less effective their unique system will yield. These people are not billionaires or even millionaires, to them it is more like a hobby, albeit a profitable one. The best part is they control their transactions completely legally offshore. So what they do profit will slide into their offshore account. They are only taxed on the funds that they bring into the country in the form of cash or bank transfer. But if they use a major credit card issued from the offshore bank, they are paying only the interest that compounds on that card, so they will use it as a debit card and keep a zero monthly balance. Therefore, no interest.
    Point is. There are high risks while learning the talent of currency trading until you can know it inside out. It is completely different than stock market exchange. Basically, it is ordinary people doing what major banks do every day, profit from exchanging currency.
    So, yes this opportunity would be a boon for scam artists, they would be created by people who probably took a stab at currency trading and failed terribly and decided the best way to get their investment back was to pick it from your pocket.
    Here is a hard cold and frightening fact. There has never been a scam that just came off of the top of someone’s head. Scams are created from other peoples ideas that at one time had genuine and honest appeal, or even still does. Scams are exploitations of peoples wants and desires, not their needs. You want a new tablet, can’t afford it, hey here is a pop up on the internet for a chance to win a free one! Touch that button and your are already a victim.
    It was a famous myth that the there is no Chinese word for free. They have plenty. Yet, we have mistaken that as being literal. It is not, it is actually a Chinese saying. As we say today. Nothing is truly free.

    Mark Burrows

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