Earlier today, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) announced the top ten scams of 2011. With these scams, consumers can lose their money, personal identity and bank information, or both. The leading scams were:
- Job Scams: included secret shopper schemes, work-from-home scams, and phony job offers. Typically, the scammers seek to trick victims to reveal bank account information.
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams: supposedly you've won a lot of money. The pitch often includes a bogus celebrity participation.
- Social networking and online dating scams: scammers may pretend to be on of your "friends" or have hacked the online accoount of one of your "friends." Typically, the pitch is to get you to click on a link -- sometimes a racey video-- which downloads a computer virus that invades your computer and steal sign-in credentials for several social networking accounts.
- Home Improvement scams: contractors visiting your neighborhood offer a low price for the work, accept your deposit, and then never complete the job -- leaving your home in worse condition than before. Sometimes, the pitches come after a natural disaster.
- Check cashing scams: scammers use legitimate companies (e.g., Craig’s List, Western Union) offering to buy something you are selling online. The scammer's check is larger than the price of the item you are selling. The victim sends the scammer a valid check for the difference, and the victim deposits the scammer's bogus check in their bank account. Of course, the scammer flees with money from cashing the valid check, the bogus check bounces, the victim still hasn't sold their item, and the victim's bank charges bounced check fees.
- Phishing scams: these can be offers via phone, email, or a fake website. The typical pitch is to trick victims into revealing sensitive personal and bank account information. When you visit the bogus website to "verify" your account information, the website installs a software virus on your computer to steal more information.
- Financial scams: these target consumers in tough situations, and include bogus offers about debt reduction and home mortgage modifications. The promised services are never delivered.
- Sales scams: these include "penny auctions" or ways to supposedly pay far less than standard retail prices. Usually, there is a fee to bid. The BBB states clearly that not all penny auctions are scams, so consumers should treat these as a gamble and inspect closely the website policy and terms before entering.
- BBB scams: a bogus email that looks like it's from the BBB, claims that a complaint has been filed against your business. To reply to the complaint, the email includes a link which instead downloads a document that spawns a software virus that can steal banking information, passwords and other sensitive personal information.
Last month, I received one of these fake-BBB phishing emails, with the telltale bad grammar and other clues. So you are aware, here is the text of the phishing message:
Subject: Your customer complained to BBB
From: "Better Business Bureau"
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 08:47:19 +0000
Here with the Better Business Bureau notifies you that we have been filed a complaint (ID 37975886) from a customer of yours in regard to their dealership with you. Please open the COMPLAINT REPORT below to find the details on this issue and inform us about your opinion as soon as possible. We are looking forward to your prompt reply.
Better Business Bureau Council of Better Business Bureaus
4200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203-1838
Phone: 1 (703) 276.0100
Fax: 1 (703) 525.8277