The Most Widespread, Repugnant or Audacious Scams of the Year

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Scammers claiming to be from Obamacare, the Do Not Call Registry, the police or your bank are tricking people into sharing personal information, leading to identity theft.

From phony casting calls to invisible home improvements, the Better Business Bureau has released its list of the top 10 scams of 2013. The list was compiled from consumer reports, federal agencies and other sources.

A BBB press release said:

“These are not necessarily the scams with the biggest losses, or those with the most victims, as many people don’t report scams or even know they’ve been victimized,” said Katherine Hutt, CBBB spokesperson. “These are the scams that seemed to be the most widespread, aimed at the most vulnerable, growing in popularity, or just plain audacious. Scams are ever-changing, but we want to help people recognize them and be prepared the next time they get a suspicious call, email, text or solicitation.”

Here they are, with a brief summary:

1. Medical alert scam 

Aimed at seniors and caretakers, this ploy promised a “free” medical alert system, claiming that it had already been paid for by a relative or friend. Many seniors handed over their bank account or credit card information to “confirm” their identity, and were hit with a $35 service fee for an alert system that never arrived. The BBB warns against handing out your personal information for a supposedly free product offer.

2. Auction reseller scam

Some eBay and other online auction site sellers were tricked into sending items with same-day shipping after receiving emailed payment confirmation forms that looked like they came from PayPal, but turned out to be phony. The BBB recommends verifying that the payment is in your PayPal account before shipping.

3. Arrest warrant scam

Some scammers are calling and impersonating law enforcement officials, sometimes changing what’s visible on the caller ID, and convincing people that there is a warrant out for their arrest. According to the BBB, the con artist then says it’s possible to avoid criminal charges if a fine is paid on the phone with a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

4. Invisible home improvements

Sloppy work on hard-to-see areas of the home, like roofs, chimneys, air ducts and crawl spaces, are popular with con artists, and easy to pull off. The BBB recommends checking out home contractors at before hiring. (Also see: “Tricks of the Trade: Contractors.”)

5. Casting call scam

The BBB warns that scammers posing as agents or talent scouts are duping aspiring performers into paying for auditions for bogus parts. Sometimes phony casting call applications are used to swindle fees or even commit identity theft.

6. Foreign currency investment scam

According to the BBB:

They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi dinar, Vietnamese dong or, most recently, the Egyptian pound. The plan is that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in.

Unfortunately, the currency tends to be tough to sell, and isn’t likely to increase much in value.

7. Scam texts

The BBB warns consumers to be wary of text alerts purporting to be from their bank. Scammers are taking advantage of the popularity of online and mobile banking to get your personal banking information and sometimes get you to download malicious software that allows them access to your smartphone.

8. Do-not-call scam

The National Do Not Call Registry is free. If you receive a call from a “government official” requesting personal information or a fee to join the registry, the BBB says to hang up.

9. Fake friend scam

The BBB recommends using caution with social media by keeping high privacy settings and not sharing confidential information. Scammers are creating fake profiles using stolen online identities, and using those identities to perpetrate online cons.

10. Scam of the year – Affordable Care Act scam

The BBB said scammers, citing Obamacare, pose as government officials and con people into sharing personal information, which can lead to identity theft.

Have you been the victim of a scam? Please share your experience below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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