As we come to the last days of this year we often take a moment to reflect back on what occurred over the last year. Well, today the the St. Louis Better Business Bureau released its list of the 13 most common consumer rip-offs of 2009. I am sure that as you read these you will see some that came across your computer screen or are in your spam folder.
Here is the list in no particular order:
- Advance fee loans: Legitimate debt-refinancing companies don’t charge fees in advance.
- Door-to-door sales: Salespeople use high-pressure sales tactics to obtain payment for items that either never arrive or are different from what was promised.
- Friend/family in distress: Sometimes called the Grandma Scam, a victim gets a message someone impersonating a friend or family member. The fraudsters say they are outside of the country and need money quickly. The victim is asked to wire thousands of dollars to pay lawyer’s fees or to post bail.
- H1N1 flu scams: Consumers were contacted in a variety of ways in an effort to scare them into purchasing bogus cures or health information that might be incorrect or widely available for free.
- Lottery and fake check scams: Victims receive notification letters that include a bogus check. The letter asks the “winners” to wire-transfer funds to cover taxes or other fees.
- Job hunter scams: Job seekers are asked to pay a fee or provide personal information —
like a bank-account number or Social Security number – to be considered for employment. Of course, there is no job.
- Memorabilia: Many items are sold at inflated prices and have little more than sentimental value.
- Mystery shopping: A variation of the fake-check scam. Newly hired “secret shoppers” are asked to test a wire-transfer service by sending their own money. Needless to say, they’ll never see a refund or a paycheck.
- Office supply sales: Telemarketers call businesses offering office supplies at a discount, often saying their company is relocating and must liquidate inventory. Some imply a boss already has approved the order. Bills are inflated, and refunds are difficult to obtain.
- Phishing e-mails: Whatever the setup, the goal is to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect computers with viruses and malware.
- Robocalls: The prevalence of robocalls violating federal telemarketing laws prompted the FTC to restrict the practice this year
- Teeth-whitening offers: Consumers who thought they were signing up for a free trial of teeth-whitening products say they were repeatedly billed for products and services they didn’t’t want.
- Weight loss pill free trial offers: As with other “free trial offers,” the BBB received thousands of complaints from consumers that these offers end up costing money by automatically enrolling them in programs that charged monthly fees to their credit cards.
So there you are the top scams for 2009.
The sad result of all these bad acts is that it has caused more regulations to be issued that have actually indirectly affected some legitimate businesses.
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