The 10 Biggest Consumer Scams

Unfortunately the Better Business Bureau receives tens of thousands of calls and emails from consumers that have been scammed on a monthly basis. These scams vary from just a few dollars to taking people’s life savings. Scams are usually widespread, hitting more than one area at a time. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans have lost over $1.5 billion to scams in 2013. That’s an astounding number and in the trying times of a sluggish economy that number just keeps growing as more and more people get desperate for money.

The Better Business Bureaus across the U. S. and Canada publishes lists of these scams. Their sources include victims of scams, information from federal agencies and reports from consumers. Obviously there are many more than ten ways to scam the average consumer but for the purpose of this list we focus on the top scams. Those may not be the ones that took the most money from victims but ones that are geared at the biggest part of the population, scams that are very popular and aimed at specific groups of people. If at any time you feel you have been scammed or an attempt has been made, contact your local chapter of the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.

10. Work At Home Scams

Work-at-home scams have been popular for years. Advertisements offer paid work from home. Once the individual applies, they are asked to pay an up-front fee to cover training materials. After they do that, however, they receive no response from the company. Scamming companies may also ask individuals to invest in their company in order to give it a greater chance of success but once someone does this, they receive no recognition or receipt for the investment and they can't reach anyone in the company for assistance. This has been extremely successful as more and more individuals are seeking to work from home. 

9 Property Investment Scams  

This is the scam where prospective investors are invited to see a presentation where they are told they can enroll in a course for a fee that will allow them to make successful property deals with no money down. Sometimes they even have lists of properties available with lease-to-buy options, but unfortunately they either turn out to be extremely run down properties near being condemned or they don't even exist at all.

8 EBay/Auction Reseller Scam    

In this scam, the scammers pose as buyers to convince sellers to ship goods prior to receiving payment. They try to claim that they are purchasing something for a “birthday” or “anniversary”. Some will even say it’s for a member of the military and they are going to be shipping out. The scammer fakes an email that looks as though PayPal has confirmed payment and they make off with the goods. If you are selling anything on EBay or other online auction sites be sure to verify payment through their system before shipping the goods off.

7 Medical Alert Scam

This scam involves telemarketers phoning you to let you know a family member or friend has paid for a medical alert system as a “gift” for you. They prey on seniors and caretakers asking that the recipients of the “gift” provide either a bank account number or credit information to verify their identity. Of course the medical alert system never arrives and a significant fee is drawn on the victim’s bank account or charged to their credit card. Moral of the story- never give personal information out and always verify with friends and family before accepting any such “gift”.  

6 Invisible Home Improvements

This is a particularly disturbing scam involving individuals that target seniors, invalids, and those that have been victims of natural disasters. They bypass email and phone calls and just come straight to your door. They pose as home improvement contractors and tell you they were “in the neighborhood” doing another job and they can give you a great deal.  They offer to fix something that can't easily be seen such as chimneys, duct work, crawl spaces, etc. Needless to say they don't do any work and yet you pay for a repair you think was done. Be sure to thoroughly research any contractor before you hire them.

5 Scam Text Messages    

The scammers send a text to you that looks as though it’s from your bank asking that you confirm information or reactivate your account by clicking on a link they provide. When you click on the link and provide the information it goes to the scammer who then proceeds to gain access to your account. Sometimes they may even download malicious software to your phone so that they can gain access to anything on it.

4 Debt Relief Services Scam

With a depressed economy came the birth of many shady debt consultants and relief services. They prey on those that are desperate due to financial challenges. The scammer debt relief company requests you make an advance payment, which they then abscond with and no payment to your debt is ever made. Fortunately the Federal Trade Commission established rules that specify legitimate debt relief companies can't ask for advance fees so if you are working with a company that asks for those fees you know they aren't on the level.

3 Do Not Call Scams

The National Do Not Call Registry established a way for you to be placed on a list so that you are not bothered by most telemarketers. Now scammers have found a way to scam the consumer using that very list. It’s clear that no matter what happens, scammers will always find a way to evolve, to take advantage of the next popular way of protecting yourself and turn it to their advantage as in this scenario. They pretend to be a government official confirming your participation on the list and ask for personal information for identity verification. Once they have the information then they proceed to use it to empty bank accounts or run up credit card charges.

2 Fake Friend Scam

This scam involves Facebook. The scammers send a Friend Request on Facebook and even though you are pretty sure you had that person on your list already you hit accept. Well, you just accepted a scammer and given him or her access to your profile. In this way the scammer learns enough about you to possibly steal your identity. Social media networking sites should be used with great caution with privacy settings on high. Remember you can't be sure of who’s who in the virtual world.

1 Affordable Healthcare Act Scam

Scammers made a fortune with “Obamacare”, using it to deceive Americans and make them give out personal information. They call claiming that they are government employees and tell you that they need to send out a new health care card. They may even have some of your personal information already, like part of your bank account number and they ask you to supply the remaining information. They may ask for your Social Security number or Medicare ID. Once they obtain the personal information it’s very easy to steal your identity, ruin your credit rating and empty your accounts. Beware of this one!

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