BBB: Online purchase scams riskiest type of fraud

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ARLINGTON, Va. (WTVQ) – A new report from the Better Business Bureau shows online purchase scams are now the riskiest form of consumer fraud.

According to the report, more than 47,000 scam reports were submitted to the BBB Scam Tracker by consumers in 2017.

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The BBB reports the following changes in scams from 2016 to 2017.

  • Tax collection scams decreased 60% in volume of reports, likely due to the arrest in India in 2016 of a ringleader of a network of call centers primarily responsible for the IRS scam.
  • Online purchase scams jumped from the 4th riskiest scam to the top spot, likely due to an increase in exposure.
  • Home improvement scams dropped from 1st to 6th riskiest, despite a number of natural disasters that traditionally bring out “stormchasers.”

The report shows young people are at higher risk for scams, and susceptibility decreases with age. Though less frequent, older victims lose more money when scammed.

Below is a list from the BBB’s report of the top ten riskiest scams in 2017.

  1. Online purchase scam (up from #4 in 2016)
  2. Investment scam (up from #6 in 2016)
  3. Employment scam (no change)
  4. Advance fee loan scam (up from #5 in 2016)
  5. Fake check scam (down from #2 in 2016)
  6. Home improvement scam (down from #1 in 2016)
  7. Tech support scam (up from #8 in 2016)
  8. Travel/vacation scam (new to top 10, #12 in 2016)
  9. Family/friend emergency scam (no change)
  10. Government grant scam (new to top 10, #11 in 2016)

Travel and vacation scams joined the list, along with the government grant scam. Two scams left the top ten list: romance scams and sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams.

One of the most common tactics of scammers is impersonation, where the scammer pretends to be a well-known, trusted legitimate business/organization. The top legitimate organizations that were used by scammers in 2017 were: U.S. Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Government (Grant/Treasury/Reserve/Medicare); Better Business Bureau; Publishers Clearing House; and Microsoft.

  • The promise of getting a “great deal” (which is often too good to be true);
  • Pressure to respond immediately with offers that are time sensitive and prices that “can’t be guaranteed;”
  • Intimidation (for example, “You are under federal investigation”; “You will be arrested within one hour unless you call this number”); and
  • Isolation, which aims to force a decision without others’ opinions.

Scammers are clever and are always adjusting their tactics, so everyone is vulnerable. BBB Scam Tracker is helping identify higher risks and debunk long-standing myths, but no one should let down their guard. For more information on specific scams and tips on how to avoid them, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.