Better Business Bureau Names “Top Ten Scams” of 2012

The annual “Top Ten Scams” list is culled from a variety of sources. BBB gathers information on scams from consumers, some of whom have been victims of scams; from federal agencies; and from other reliable information sources.

Drum roll, please…here are BBB’s Top Ten Scams of 2012:Phishing Better Business Bureau Names “Top Ten Scams” of 2012

Top Overpayment/Fake Check Scam: Car Ads

The online ad says something like “Get Paid Just for Driving Around” – a prominent company is offering $400+ per week if you’ll drive around with their logo all over your car. They send a check to you, which you are supposed to deposit in your account and then wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. Whoops! 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: Grandparents Scam

The “Grandparents Scam” has been around a while, but it’s still so prevalent we need to mention it again: grandchild/niece/nephew/friend is traveling abroad and calls/texts/emails to say he or she has been mugged/arrested/hurt and needs money right away (“…and please don’t tell mom and dad!”).

Top Employment Scam: Mystery Shopping

If you love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But scammers have figured that out, too, and many job offers are nothing more than a variation on the Overpayment/Fake Check Scam (above).

Top Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam: Nonexistent Loans

This year, we heard a new, aggressive twist on loan scams: consumers who were threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn’t “pay back” loans they said they had never even taken out in the first place. Some got calls at their workplace, even to relatives. The embarrassment of being thought of as a delinquent 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” to pay your utility bills.

Top Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican Phone Lottery

This is an old one that flared up again this year. We consider it flattering (in a weird way) that BBB is such a trusted brand that we “star” in so many scams! In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876) but the person claims to represent BBB (or FBI, or other trusted group). Great news: you’ve won a terrific prize (typical haul: $2 million and Mercedes Benz) but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings.

Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets

Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year’s top scams. 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). 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.

Top Sales/Rental Scam: Real Stars, Fake Goods

Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to have their hands in your pocket all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears that 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers were selling cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums. Others set up websites that just stole your money and never had any goods to begin with.

Scam of the Year: Newtown Charity Scams

Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, social media pages dedicated to the child victims began cropping up…and some of them were scams asking for money. 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.

To read the full article and for a full list of the red flags, visit www.bbb.org/us/article/better-business-bureau-names-top-ten-scams-of-2012-39388. For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scam Stopper. Sign up for our Scam Alerts and learn about new scams as soon as we do.

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About Kelsey Owen

Kelsey Owen is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Council of Better Business Bureaus based out of Arlington, VA. Kelsey graduated from Denison University with a degree in economics and communication and is currently pursuing a master's degree in media entrepreneurship.