ST. PAUL, Minn. - The recession has thousands of people out of work, but the scam artists are hard at work. In year ahead, the Better Business Bureau says they are likely to come at you from every angle.
No one knows that better than the Bureau’s Dan Hendrickson.
“The people that are out there trying to get information dishonestly are very persistent, said Hendrickson. “And they will keep on coming at you and that’s way you always have to be on guard.”
The Better Business Bureau has looked at the past to try and predict what will happen in the future, in this case the next year. For 2010, it has put together its own Top Ten List of scams:
1. Winter Olympics Scams. This year’s Olympic Games are fairly close by in Vancouver, British Columbia. A little known fact is that U.S. citizens can buy event tickets only through www.cosport.com . Buy your tickets anywhere else, and the BBB says you risk losing your money. It also advises consumers to be aware of travel packages that don’t provide accommodations.
2. Census Scams. At its core the government Census is about counting people. For the crook it’s about counting something else. The BBB fears that under the guise of collecting data, scammers will try to trick people into giving out banking and other personal information. The Census WILL NOT contact you by email, and if a Census worker comes to your door, you have the right to ask for their credentials proving they work for the Census.
3. Green Remodeling Offers. President Obama and Congress are giving away tax credits for qualified remodeling projects that reduce energy consumption. When working with a contractor, homeowners should have a clear understanding of what makes a product or appliance green and if it benefits them. Also, check the credentials of the contractor with the Better Business Bureau or the state licensing agencies.
4. Job Scams. In this recession, scammers will try to rope people into fraudulent re-shipping schemes or offer jobs in exchange for an upfront payment.
5. Pre-Acquired Account Marketing Offers. It’s a high-brow term for a low-brow attempt to take your money. It happens when you buy something on line and you suddenly get a pop-up offering discounts to the store from which you just made a purchase. By clicking on these offers to save, customers unknowingly sign up for memberships which result in a monthly bill.
6. IRS Related Scams. These are typically by email. The message indicates it’s from the IRS asking for financial information. The IRS reminds taxpayers that it never discusses tax account information by email.
7. Wireless Security Breaches. Which business person or college student hasn’t fired up their laptop and gone online at a coffee shop? Yes, they are great places to hang out, but everything you transmit is viewable on an unsecured network.
8. Fake Online Classified Ads or Auction Sales. Think Craigslist. It’s a great site, but also a place where crooks can post fake ads to scam you out of your money. The BBB advises that if you buy from a online classified ad or auction site that you consider only making payment through third party transaction companies such as PayPal.
9. Gift Card Scams. The BBB says there are actually online sites where people can buy gift cards at reduced prices. Later they discover that the cards carry little to no value.
10. Smishing Scams. This works like Phishing on your computer, except Smishing takes place on your cell phone. It happens when a text message is sent to your phone indicating your bank or credit card accounts have been frozen and you need to call a certain number to rectify the accounts. The scammer is looking to collect your banking information. This actually happened in December of 2008 to many customers of a major Twin Cities bank.
The best advice from the Better Business Bureau is to be aware.
“We hear so many times people saying, ‘Well it sounded like such a good deal, or such a good offer, I had to do it,’” said Hendrickson. “And, you know we understand that. But the reality is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”