Better Business Bureau releases top 9 worst scams of 2013

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CINCINNATI -- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) released this week its list of the worst scams to hit the nation in 2013.

A year earlier in 2012, it’s estimated that Americans lost $1.4 billion to scams.

Some are widespread, getting a lot of people for small amounts – while other scams are more narrowly focused, but take people for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

The BBB compiled its list of the top scams by grouping and examining thousands of calls and emails from consumers scammed in 2013.

Here are the top nine worst according to the BBB:

Medical Alert Scam

With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free 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 and 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.

Auction Reseller Scam

Scammers fool people selling items on Ebay and other online auctions into shipping goods without receiving payment. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming the payment. Always confirm payment in your Ebay and PayPal accounts before shipping.

Arrest Warrant Scam

Con artists pose as a local law enforcement agency and claim there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. These “police” only accept wire transfers or pre-paid debit cards.

Invisible Home Improvements

These scams usually involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. Scammers may simply knock on your door offering a great deal, but they also use telemarketing, email and social media. Check out home contractors at bbb.org before saying yes.

Foreign 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. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase foreign currencies. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.

Scam Texts

One major tactic is the use of scam texts, known as “smishing,” to steal personal information.

They look like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link and they get your banking information. You may inadvertently download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone.

Do Not Call Scams

The National Do Not Call Registry offers consumers a free way to reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers pretend to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Dot Not call list. They ask for personal information or charge a fee to join the free registry.

Fake Friend Scam

A popular scam has been the theft of people’s online identities to create fake profiles on Facebook. A new ‘friend’ can learn a lot about you to scam you later, “recommend” sketchy websites that download malware, use your account to scrap information on your other friends and even impersonate a military officer or other trustworthy person to perpetrate a romance scam.

And the scam of the year...

Affordable Care Act Scam

Scammers claimed to be from the federal government in phone calls and said the would-be victim needed a new insurance or Medicare card. Before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information.

To read more about each scam, check out the BBB’s website.

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