The Better Business Bureau receives calls on it every day. It’s a scam that’s hitting people who are in the poorest of financial situations. Consumers across the U.S. are losing substantial sums of money responding to TV, newspaper, or Website advertisements that “guarantee” loans to people with poor credit. Advance Fee Loan Scams tops the BBB’s Top Scams of 2008. Here is the complete list:
- Advanced Fee Loan Scams – Consumers call a toll-free number listed in the ad and the person on the other end “takes” their credit application over the phone. Consumers are told they’ve been approved for a loan (from $5,000 to $100,000), and will receive the money once they pay a “fee,” allegedly needed to cover the first loan payment or for security and/or insurance. The loan applicant is instructed to wire the money or send a money order. They never receive the loan and cannot recover their money. They also risk having their identity stolen if they provided their Social Security number or bank account number.
- Counterfeit Check Scams – You receive a letter with a check in the mail, stating you’ve won a lottery or landed a mystery shopping “job.” You are told to deposit the check, and wire part of the funds back to the company. The check looks real, but after you deposit it in your account, weeks later you find out it’s fake. Now, you owe the bank the money…and the scam artist comes out on top!
- Debt Repair Scams – Offers for miraculous credit repair are common in radio, TV, newspaper, direct mail advertising, and on the internet. Some of the schemes require consumers to pay large fees upfront - and in return may promise to erase any blemishes on credit records, get new Social Security numbers for clients, or allow consumers to piggyback on someone else’s credit record. BBB warns that no one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. However, you can dispute something you believe is inaccurate, and you don’t need a credit repair company to help with that. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to check out your credit report and get more information.
- Viruses/Worms/Trojans – Scam artists are using Ecards to infect consumer’s computers. The Ecards may say from a “family member” or “friend,” but when they are activated, the consumer’s computer is infected with a virus, worm, or Trojan. Consumers should never click on links or open anything via email if they don’t know who it’s from.
- Phishing Scams – The victim receives an email that appears to be from a credible bank, credit card company, PayPal, or the IRS, with links to a website and a request to update information. The website is fake, and the scam artist is trying to get personal information!
- Vishing Scams - The con artist sends a blast e-mail, disguised to appear as though it’s from a financial institution. Typically, it reports a "security" problem with the recipient’s account and urges the victim to call a telephone number to "straighten things out." When the victim calls, they reach an automated attendant prompting them to enter their account number, password or other private information for "security verification" purposes. A prerecorded message (or sometimes a live "employee") claims the victim’s account has been compromised or needs updating or verification. The victim is asked to enter their account information, which is digitally transcribed onto the hard drive of the scammer’s computer.
- Free Gas Scams – As gas prices hit record highs in 2008, scam artists did their part to try to take advantage of consumers by telling them they won FREE gas! In one scheme, consumers received postcards in the mail for a $300 gas card. All they had to do was send $29.95 to get the card. What’s free about that? In another “free gas” scheme, consumers received phone calls offering them a free gas card, and then the scam artist asked for the consumer’s bank account information for fees. Never, ever give this information to someone you don’t know and trust!
- Overpayment Scams – Scam artists (“buyers”) respond to classified ads in the newspaper or online auction sites offering to buy high ticket items like a car, or even a pet. The scam artist wants to pay with a cashier’s check, personal check or corporate check. At the last minute, the so-called buyer (or the buyer’s “agent”) comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price, and asks the consumer to wire back the difference after depositing the check. Later, the consumer finds out the check was bogus, owes the bank money, and could even be out the item.
- Mortgage Foreclosure “Rescue” Scams – Typically, homeowners facing foreclosure are contacted directly by a mortgage foreclosure rescue company or come across a Web site while searching for help to stop foreclosure on their homes. The companies claim they can negotiate the terms of their mortgages and stop foreclosure actions, or the homeowners will get their money back. Victims, who were desperate to keep their homes, paid as much as $1,300 to the rescue companies. In the end, the companies did very little work or often nothing at all. Most victims not only lost their homes, but they also have not been able to get promised refunds.
Work-At-Home Scams – Often advertised in newspaper classified ads or online as paid work from home. After the worker applies, they are asked for money up-front to pay for materials and, after paying, they hear nothing back.
BBB believes the best way to get the word out about these scams, is to educate consumers. BBB does this on a daily basis through phone calls it receives, and a various events and speeches around the BBB service area. For more information on these TOP SCAMS OF 2008, go to www.bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.