Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top industry experts to provide consumers with updates about threats to their personal data. The Better Business Bureau leads the way by publishing a recurring and continually updated list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each day in its Scam Tracker.
It’s worth noting that IRS Imposter Scams are still topping the list of reports to the BBB, and that isn’t likely to change until well into the tax season. In the meantime, take a look at some of their other recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Online Purchase Scams
In this scam, you click on an ad to buy a ridiculously cheap but sought-after item. These ads often claim that the product is endorsed by a high-profile celebrity, but that’s actually not the case. Once you click and enter your information to purchase the product, the real crime begins.
You’re taken to page after page after page of other products to buy, and each time you click “No thanks,” it’s actually adding the item to your shopping cart. When you finally get through to the payment screen, you’re not offered an invoice, only the option to complete your purchase. A later peek at your credit card account will show all of the other items you accidentally purchased.
Even worse, attempting to call customer service to remove these items (if you’re lucky enough to actually reach a representative) only results in being told the items have already shipped, and that the only way to get a refund is for you to wait for the products to arrive and then return them, then to wait up to six weeks for a refund to be processed. They’re counting on you giving up instead of pursuing it further.
You can avoid this scam by only shopping on reputable internet retailers’ sites, and avoiding the temptation to click on a cheap flashy ad.
#2 – Home Improvement Scams
There have been numerous reports of different home improvement scams in the past week, all in different locations and with different contractors. What could be causing an increase in the number of crooks making off with your money?
The season. This is the time of year when a lot of renovators and construction companies are looking for extra work. Their spring, summer, and fall months may be filled with lucrative jobs, but the winter months are when new construction slows down and they look to other opportunities to make ends meet.
Also, taking into consideration the fact that a lot of contractors use day laborers to actually complete the work, you may be hiring a contractor who then has to turn around and scrounge up people to do the physical work. That can be hard on a day-to-day basis when the weather turns foul, meaning the job got started but not finished.
The most important thing to do when hiring a renovation or repair contractor is right there in his name: get a contract. Never hire anyone to do work if you have to pay upfront, even if you’re told it’s for the “parts”; if that’s the case, go to the hardware store yourself and purchase the part. Any reputable construction firm will have the means to purchase the necessary materials and then bill you upon completion of the project.
#3 – Travel Scams
Different travel scams have cropped up in the past week, from the outrageously good “act now” offers to the threatening non-payment scams. Some people reported being offered extra weeks on their timeshares if they only pay the “one time processing fee,” while others were threatened with hefty fines and debt collectors if they didn’t pay up for vacations they’d never booked.
Either way, remember that legitimate companies will never call you out of the blue and expect payment over the phone. Never give your credit card number or identifying information to anyone who contacts you.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker site or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.