12 Worst Scams Exposed (Updated 2019)
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12 Worst Scams Exposed
Phone and internet scams have risen sharply in recent years and are costing Americans billions of dollars. According to the latest data, the average scam victim loses about $450, and the annual cost of scams in the United States is about $10 billion. To make matters worse, scammers are growing increasingly cunning. Watching out for these popular scams can help prevent people from adding their names to the long list of scam victims.
1. Remote PC Repair Scams
Tech support scams are popular among scammers because most people lack the skill set to determine for themselves whether their computers are exhibiting signs of malware or viruses. Tech support scammers will often contact potential victims by phone claiming to be computer technicians from well-known software companies. These scammers tell people that they have detected problems with their computers, usually citing malware or viruses.
After victims believe their computers are at risk, the scammers offer to access and diagnose their computers remotely, after which they will run a fake diagnostic and often install malware or viruses. Once this is done, tech support scammers demand payment for their services, often through unorthodox methods such as gift cards, wire transfers or online payment apps. To avoid these cunning thieves, PC owners must keep in mind that legitimate software companies will never:
Call customers to warn of potential security threats
Ask for remote access to customers' computers
Ask for payment in the form of wire transfers, gift cards or online payment apps
2. Counterfeit Goods and Services
Many scammers these days mimic well-known companies and offer to sell goods and services at prices that seem too good to be true. These scammers often use the same logos as legitimate companies and URLs that are eerily similar to the real ones. These scams can be avoided with diligence and common sense. Often, examining the URL carefully will reveal some small difference from the legitimate companies, signaling to consumers that they are not actually on the site they think they are. When in doubt, opt out.
3. Check Scams
Check scams are simple and classic. Scammers will send out tearful emails detailing how they are struggling, for whatever reason, to cash a check. They ask whether anyone would be so kind as to cash the check for them and give them the cash, often offering a generous reward for the favor. Inevitably, the endorsed check bounces and the victim's checking account takes the hit. No matter how believable their stories, never attempt to cash checks for strangers.
4. Pets For Sale Scams
Perhaps one of the most distasteful scams circulating these days is the use of fake pet adoption websites. These sites entice people looking to adopt pets by offering prices far lower than usual. The sites will ask consumers to pay only insurance and shipping fees and only accept Moneygram or similar wire transfers as payment. Of course, animals do not exist and never arrive. When looking to adopt an animal, local shelters or pet stores are the best bet.
5. Fake Grant Scams
Grant scams, although not overly clever, can be effective. Scammers pose as government officials offering grant money in exchange for a small processing fee. These scams typically target individuals in dire financial situations. In addition to the initial fee, these scammers often steal and sell their victims' personal information to anyone willing to pay for it.
6. Fake Collection Scams
As anyone who has suffered financial hardship can tell you, collection agencies are ruthless in their pursuit of old debts. They are allowed by law to contact people in an attempt to collect debts, and they are often quite aggressive about it. Scammers posing as collection agents will harass victims relentlessly, threatening lawsuits, wage garnishments and property liens until victims submit and make a payment over the phone. Collection scammers are often armed with genuine information about their victims' credit history and past due bills. When in doubt, people should contact the original creditor to find out exactly which collection agency the business uses. If it is a different agency, potential victims should cease all contact with the fake collection agency and contact the police.
7. Rental Property Scams
Many scams use attractive deals as their proverbial hook, and rental scams are a prime example. Scammers use attractive property pictures, convincing details and low prices to trick prospective renters into reaching out to them. Like many scams, the scammers will ask for the first month's rent in the form of some kind of wire transfer. Wire transfers are a recurring theme in scams and should always raise suspicion.
8. Fake Loan Scams
Scammers know that people in debt often do desperate things. Loan scams are simple: Scammers contact individuals and tell them they have qualified for a low-interest loan. In order to access the money, though, prospective borrowers must pay a security fee and often provide bank information to prove they are capable of paying it back. Inevitably, the fee vanishes and the loan is never disbursed.
9. Timeshare Resale Scams
Timeshare owners should be wary of offers to unload their timeshares for a large profit. Scammers will attempt to extort various fees, such as broker, closing or appraisal fees, from unsuspecting timeshare owners. In some situations, these contracts are confusing and legally binding. Timeshare owners should consult with an experienced attorney before entering into any contract.
10 Work-From-Home Scams
Working from home is an attractive prospect, and scammers are taking advantage. They set up fraudulent websites that offer people work-from-home positions in international shipping. These scams are particularly clever; they boast involved application and interview processes that are shockingly convincing. After hiring people, the scammers begin sending packages and instructions on how to inspect and ship the products. When payday arrives, new employees receive paychecks for substantially more than expected. When employees contact the employers about the overpayment, the company confirms the mistake and instructs the employee to send them the difference before depositing the check. Unsurprisingly, the check then bounces.
11 Fake Social Security Phone Scams
Social Security scams are popping up everywhere these days. Scammers will call individuals and tell them that their Social Security numbers have been fraudulently used. They claim that victims' Social Security numbers have been deactivated and attempt to extract full Social Security numbers from them. Often, they will even go as far as to threaten victims with arrest if they refuse to cooperate. It is important to remember that legitimate IRS or similar government employees will never ask for people's full Social Security numbers over the phone.
12. Fake Lottery Scams
It is weird to think that anyone would believe they won a large sum of money from a lottery they never played, but people do. This scam is not markedly different from most; a scammer will call or email a potential victim informing them that they have won a lottery or similar contest, and then they will ask for some sort of processing fee via wire transfer in order to get paid. Of course, in the end, the fee is lost and the winnings are never paid. People should be extremely skeptical about money that seemingly comes from nowhere, especially when its providers want money first.
Scammers are getting smarter and can be convincing. People should be wary of anyone asking for personal information or any transactions involving wire transfers, gift cards or other unorthodox payment methods. Watching out for these popular scams will save people the pain and humiliation of getting burned by con artists.
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