Top 10 List of Scams of 2014
There are many ways to measure the largest scams, but most measure them by the number of people affected and the total dollars scammed.
By that measure, Politifact and many others give President Barrack Obama credit for the biggest scam or lie of 2013, for lying (and repeating the lie often) about the Affordable Care Act ( which he himself referred to, but no longer does, as "ObamaCare"), with his often repeated statement "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period" Politifact followed this up with a "Pants on Fire" award to President Obama for later saying that he meant to say you "keep your plan 'if it hasn't changed since the law passed'.
But the "You can keep your doctor" healthcare scam is so big, affects so many people and has only a political solution, that we've kept it out of our top ten list.
Instead, our list focuses on the scams that you could avoid, those reported to the FTC and BBB (Better Business Bureau) rather than those perpetrated upon you by politicians. Nonetheless, medical scams of all types grew in 2013 to become the largest category. For detailed explanations of each scam, how to report a scammer and how to protect yourself, click on the blue titles below for more information! To see federal and select state top 10 scam lists, click here.
Medical Alert Scam - This is a telemarketing scam that
promises a 'free' medical alert system, that scam targeted seniors and
caretakers. The robocalls claimed to be offering the medical alert devices
and system free of charge because a family member or friend had already
paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank
account or credit information to 'verify' their identity and, as a result,
were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never
arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting
refunded. Easy rule of thumb - be wary of 'free' offers that require your
personal information upfront and always verify with the supposed friend or
family member that the caller says paid for the service.
/ Auction Reseller Scam - Scammers posing as buyers convice
sellers into shipping goods prior to receiving payment. Usually the fake
buyer claims it's an 'emergency' like a child's birthday and asks the
seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that appears as
though it came from PayPal for the payment, but emails like that are easy
for scammers to fake.
Warrant Scam - Scammers create a fake Caller ID, which
allows them to call you and appear to be calling from a local police, sheriff or other
law enforcement agency. They say there is a warrant out for your arrest,
but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course,
these scammers don't take credit cards; only a Western Union Moneygram,
other wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do.
Invisible Home Improvements - In addition to email, mail and
phone, scammers now just show up at your door. Scammers posing as home
improvement contractors come door-to-door sale and target seniors, those
who live alone, and victims of weather-related disasters are common
Casting Call Scam - Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts
looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants, etc., and
use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try
out for parts that don't exist.
Currency Scam - Investments in foreign currency can sound
like a great idea, and scammers frequently use real current events and
news stories to make their pitches even more appealing. 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. Unlike previous
hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that
they will be very difficult to sell, and it's extremely unlikely they will
ever significantly increase in value.
Text Messages - It looks like a text alert from your bank,
asking you to confirm information or 'reactivate your debit card' by
following a link on your smart phone. But it is just a way to steal
Do Not Call Scams - The National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.)
or the National Do Not Call List (Canada) offer consumers a free way to
reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers call anyway, of course, and they've
even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government
official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation
on the Dot Not call list!
Fake Friend Scam - Did you ever get a Friend Request on
Facebook from someone you already thought was your Friend? If you hit
Accept, you may have just friended a scammer.
- Affordable Care Act Scams (ObamaCare) - Scammers love the Affordable Care Act ('Obamacare'), using it as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information.
Other common scams:
These include scams which can go under the name of genuine lotteries like the UK National Lottery and the El Gordo Spanish lottery. Unsolicited email or telephone calls tell people they are being entered or have already been entered into a prize draw. Later, they receive a call congratulating them on winning a substantial prize in a national lottery. But before they can claim their prize, they are told they must send money to pay for administration fees and taxes. The prize, of course, does not exist. No genuine lottery asks for money to pay fees or notifies it's winners via email.
- Internet Auction Frauds
- Auction frauds (commonly called Ebay or PayPal scams, after the two
largest venues) is a misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale
through an Internet auction site or the failure to deliver products
purchased through an Internet auction site.
Nigerian Advance Fee Frauds
These frauds take the form of an offer, via letter, e-mail or fax, to share a huge sum of money in return for using the recipient's bank account to transfer of the money out of the country. The perpetrators will often then use the bank account details to empty their victim's bank account. Often, they convince the victim that money is needed up front, to pay fees or is needed to bribe officials.
Phishing and Pharming for Identity Theft
The victim receives an email that appears to be from a credible, real bank or credit card company, with links to a website and a request to update account information. But the website and email are fakes, made to look like the real website.
- Online Dating Scams
Fake profiles of scammers posing as attractive men and women, then claiming they need money to help in an emergency, typically when they claim to be out of the country on a business trip.
- "PASSIVE RESIDUAL INCOME" SCAMS
Get rich scheme and scam websites - Make $$$ in your spare time! It so EASY once you get their free book or cd and learn their secrets! Sure... These websites are themselves scams; claiming to offer you a good deal, when at best, their products are worthless, they have no real secrets, and worse, some are identity thieves!
- Counterfeit Checks
You receive a check in the mail - either from a lottery you "won" (without buying a ticker) or from an EBay buyer or other source. It looks real... but after you try to cash it, you find out it is a fake; and you're arrested for passing a counterfeit check! Read more about scam checks on this page and here about the EBay check scam.
What a scam this one is! The name of the website is freecreditreport.com, but you'll only get a credit report when you sign up for their paid service. And worst of all there IS a government mandated website where you CAN get a free credit report! Find out more here!
- Work At Home Scams
Work-at-home and business opportunity scams are often advertised as paid work from home. After the would-be worker applies, they are asked for money up-front to pay for materials and, after paying, they hear nothing back. A variation of this is, people are asked to invest in a business that has little chance of success.
- Matric and Multilevel Marketing
and Pyramid Schemes
"MAKE MONEY NOW!" scream their websites! And do it in your spare time! Earn big bucks for almost no work. If that isn't enough to tell you it is a scam, let us explain why it is. These schemes are promoted through websites offering expensive electronic gadgets as free gifts in return for spending about $25 on an inexpensive product, such as a mobile phone signal booster.
Consumers who buy the product then join a waiting list to receive their free gift. The person at the top of the list receives his/her gift only after a prescribed number of new members join up.
The majority of those on the list will never receive the item.
Pyramid schemes offer a return on a financial investment based on the number of new recruits to the scheme.
Investors are misled about the likely returns. There are simply not enough people to support the scheme indefinitely.
Property Investment Scams
Investors attend a free presentation, which aims to persuade them to hand over large amounts of money to enroll on a course promising to make them a successful property dealer, usually involving "no money down".
Schemes can involve the offer of buying yet-to-be built properties at a discount. Other variations include a buy-to-lease scheme where companies offer to source, renovate and manage properties, claiming good returns from rental income. The properties are generally near-derelict and the tenants non-existent.
900 Phone NumberScams
Postal notification of a win in a sweepstake or a holiday offer in this scam include instructions to ring a premium rate number. This is generally an 900 toll number. Calls to the number incur significant charges, the recorded message is lengthy, and the prize often does not exist. It is a scam that has been around a long time, but it is still in use.
Advance Fee Brokers. Often these appear to be very
professional operations with attractive websites and advertisements.
However, it is illegal for a business to charge a fee prior to providing
a loan. Typically, after wiring money to the scammer, the victim never
receives the loan. These 'lenders' will use fake physical addresses or
the addresses of real companies.
Credit Repair Services with Advance Fees. Consumers with bad credit
ratings are particularly vulnerable to this scam. Everything a
credit-repair operation offers an individual can do personally at little
or no cost. Credit repair operations cannot ask for money in advance and
they cannot automatically remove legitimate negative reports from your
Foreign Lottery Scams. Any lottery from a foreign country
is illegal in the United States. Stating a person can win or is a winner
already provides a strong incentive; however, people should never send
money to obtain lottery money. Scammers using fictitious addresses will
request you send 'fees and taxes' to them through a wire service, take
the cash and never provide any winnings because there are no winners.
Office Supplies - Sale by Deceptive Telemarketing. This scam features
fake invoices for office supplies being sent to a business, often for
only a couple hundred dollars. This relatively low amount makes it
easier for company personnel to quickly sign off and feel it is not
worth their time to check the invoice's validity, which would be done if
it was for a larger amount.
- Debt Relief Services (Non-Compliant with FTC rule). The Federal Trade Commission has established rules for debt relief services (for profit businesses that represent that they renegotiate, settle or alter the terms of payment for an unsecured debt). The FTC rule governs disclosures and representations that debt relief services can make and does not allow advance fees. There are legitimate debt relief companies that comply with the FTC rule and the Better Business Bureau is identifying only the non-compliant companies as scams.
And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive. We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!