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Better Business Bureau lists worst scams of 2013

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, at 8:25 p.m.

It’s the awards season and the crooks involved in the varied attempts to steal consumers’ money outdid themselves last year.

Each year the Better Business Bureau releases its list of the previous year’s top 10 scams. Unlike the Oscars and the Grammys, these “honors” go to the worst of the worst.

Based on things like how widespread they are, how vulnerable a population they are aimed at and how much they are growing in popularity, this top 10 scam list is offered to the public in hopes it may prevent consumers from falling victim to these “Scammy” winners.

Here is the rundown:

10. Medical alert scam

A caller notifies seniors or caretakers that a “free” medical alert system has been purchased for them by a friend or family member. They want “verification” via a bank account number or other credit information before it will be sent. They charge the account and never send the system.

9. Auction reseller scam

A “buyer” in an online auction tries to fool sellers into sending the item before receiving payment based on an emotional plea like a child’s birthday or a military member shipping out soon. Fake notifications that look like they are from PayPal “confirm” the payment is on its way. Always check that the payment is in your account before shipping.

8. Arrest warrant scam

Using technology that lets them fake the readout on your Caller ID, scammers pose as local law enforcement and notify you of an outstanding arrest warrant. Offering you the chance to pay a fine instead, they want money sent via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Law enforcement agencies do not use such methods. Do not send money.

7. Invisible home improvements

Beware of “improvements” to areas you cannot see, like chimneys, roofs, air ducts and crawl spaces. They may knock on your door or use telemarketing, e-mail or social media. They may have fake videos on YouTube, stolen from elsewhere. Always check out contractors at bbb.org first.

6. Casting call scams

Playing off “American Idol” type shows, talent scouts searching for performers use phony audition notices to hook victims. Whether they are simply hawking lessons or services, or scamming for fees for online applications, do not pay in advance or give out information that unknown parties will have access to.

5. Foreign currency scam

Playing off current events, scammers seek “investment” in foreign currency like Iraqi dinar, Vietnamese dong and Egyptian pounds, expecting governments to eventually revalue the currencies. Such profits are extremely unlikely.

4. Scam texts

These are “smishing” attempts that use fake texts from your bank asking that you confirm your information or “reactivate your debit card” by clicking on a link. They are seeking your banking information and may even download malware onto your device.

3. Do-not-call scams

Scammers call you under the guise of wanting to sign you up for the Do-Not-Call list with the government. Sometimes they want your personal information like your Social Security number. Other times they want a fee to add you to the list. Either way, hang up.

2. Fake friend scam

A friend request on Facebook from someone you already had friended could be a scammer who stole someone’s online identity. They could be trying to learn about you from your posts, or want to recommend websites to you where malware will result, or get info about your friends for future scams. Keep your security settings high and don’t share confidential info.

And the Scam of the Year goes to 

1. Affordable Care Act

Obamacare scams were everywhere last year. Claiming you need a new insurance or Medicare card, scammers call trying to get your personal information. They may seem credible by having your bank’s routing number. They may ask for your credit card, Social Security or Medicare ID numbers. Hang up. They are using headlines to try to scam consumers.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Reach the BBB at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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