To celebrate National Consumer Protection Week, the Better Business Bureau released its annual list of the top scams of last year — 2012. While most are not related directly to identity theft, all are worth reviewing to see how scammers are trying to get their hands into our wallets and bank accounts.
A number of the top ten were effectively golden oldies that are still around almost every day. There is the emergency email that says your grandparents or siblings or friends have been robbed while traveling and need an emergency loan to get home. Or there is the offer that you too can become a mystery shopper or restaurant reviewer — all expenses paid — if you will send us your personal information so we can know where to send the checks. Or you would be surprised how many people won a lottery or contest but just needed to send a processing fee to claim their prize.
Then there were scams tied to the hard times people were suffering due to the economy. The most prevalent was the offer of loans without credit checks, regardless of whether you were unemployed. Oh, by the way, just send us x amount of dollars to pay for loan insurance.
Other of the top 10 scams included oldies brought more up to date using today's technology. Scammers are always trying to get victims' personal information and during last summer there was a flood of Phishing Scams saying that under a new Federal program the Energy Department (or in some cases President Obama seeking reelection) will pay your heating bills this coming winter. Just give us your banking information so the government checks can be direct deposited.
The BBB said the top scam of 2012 was tragically connected to the two horrific events: the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and Super Storm Sandy that did so much damage on the Eastern seaboard. Within hours of these tragic events, all sorts of scammers were at work trying to solicit money on behalf of fake charities or on behalf of specific "victims." The FBI has made arrests and is still investigating other pop-up so-called aid funds.
The BBB also nominated its Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets
Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year's top scams. You get a direct message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook ("ROFL they was taping you" or "What RU doing in this FB vid?" are typical tweets). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn't a new version of Flash; it's a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.
As it does every year, the BBB ended its top 10 list with the timely warning: Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.