Each week, the ITRC works with Scam Detector to inform the public about the newest or most prevalent scams that targeted the public in the prior week. Thanks to reports from affected citizens, you can stay on top of the latest cybercrimes.
#1 – Balance Bracelets Are Back
A few years ago, everyone from NFL players to your neighbor’s fourth grader could be seen sporting a plastic wristband with a holographic sticker embedded in it. One of the most successful companies to produce these bracelets, Power Balance, finally admitted that it had defrauded the public with unverified claims about the bracelets’ abilities to help stabilize the wearers’ natural energy and balance fields through this magical holographic sticker.
While the bracelets were certainly harmless and may have even given people a perceived boost through the placebo effect, they weren’t in anyway helpful. They were a complete scam, one that the manufacturers knew from the very beginning.
But be warned, the bracelets are back, and mall kiosks have sprung up with eager pitchmen waiting to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers, ready to take your money. Even more important to remember is that these kiosk salesmen have temporary businesses and very little ties to your community, so you might want to think twice before handing your credit card to a huckster who can skip town with your private information.
#2 – Auto Accident Claims
Last week, there were too many bizarre auto claims to list, but the strange thing is scammers are getting so desperate that they’ll actually stage a car accident in order to file the claim. Everything from pulling in front of you and slamming on the brakes—resulting in a fault decision for you for following too closely—to giving up right of way and then jutting in so you hit the other vehicle are on the rise. While you can’t plan for this kind of scam to affect you, you can remember to obey all traffic laws as closely as possible, and in the event of an accident, be sure to take lots of pictures with your camera phone to help the other driver see that you are prepared to fight this legally if necessary. Just by arming yourself with lots of evidence and by talking to witnesses near the accident, it might be enough to prevent a scammer from bothering with you.
#3 – Investment Email Scam
The old “pump and dump” stock buying emails are back, and these scams are so effective they’ve even been featured in blockbuster films. Essentially, an email that looks like it came to you by mistake—written to you, but obviously intended for someone else by the way the sender refers to your voicemail, which even warns you not to leave a voicemail next time because this whole thing is so hush-hush—informs you of an investment opportunity you cannot miss. The letter outlines the stock of a very small company whose shares are nearly worthless, but then goes on to tell you in a very conspiratorial way about the recent discovery or innovation that small company has made. That news is supposedly going to launch the company’s stock value to record-setting heights.
This scam works because what investor wouldn’t jump on this tip? Unfortunately, you buy up the stocks, then the stock owners dump their worthless shares and your money is gone. To avoid falling for this one, remember two things: first, legitimate brokers would never handle a situation like this through email because it’s too easy to get hacked or to send it to the wrong recipient, but also, they would never handle it through email because this constitutes criminal insider trading. Emails would be all the evidence prosecutors would need to put the broker away for a long time.
To see the rest of the top ten scams from last week, check out Scam Detector or go to the ITRC’s website.