Personal Finance

The 5 Fastest-Growing Scams in America

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The Consumer Federation of America does an exhaustive survey every year of the top complaints registered with various state and local consumer protection agencies.
This year, 40 agencies in 23 states across America responded to the survey.  The survey fills out a picture of the “gotcha” world that is often incomplete, because state and local agencies often get directly involved in solving or mediating complaints. They enforce particularly critical consumer rights such as auto sales lemon laws.

The top 10 list, sadly, doesn’t change much — home repair scams, auto sales, etc.  But the fastest-growing list is something to watch. If you haven’t been hit by one of these yet, you probably will.  So here are the Consumer Fed’s top five rising complaints/gotchas:

  1. 1. Violations of do-not-call rights and other telemarketing abuses
  2. 2. Home improvement and construction
  3. 3. Used car sales
  4. 4. Utility billing issues
  5. 5. Internet sales

Of course, Do Not Call violations aren’t new, but that shows up on this list because it’s become trivial for scam artists to spoof phone numbers and trick people into answering without fear of getting caught.

The report also includes a list of new complaints, which is equally as important to watch. A sampling:

  • Invalid concert tickets purchased online (See this amazing true crime story)
  • Tech alert scams
  • Inaccurate information provided by an online auto history service
  • Websites that aggregate and publish public information online, raising privacy concerns
  • Home security sales abuses
  • Inquiries about safety and other aspects of online ride-sharing services
  • Scammers posing as court personnel, IRS, other government agencies (I’ve written about this)
  • A website that looked like state motor vehicle department site but wasn’t
  • Scams in which individuals posing as representatives of medical device companies called seniors offering “free” medical alert equipment and asking for their Social Security numbers and other personal information
  • Utility cut-off scams targeting businesses
  • New types of problems with charitable fundraising
  • Trouble with transfers of frequent flyer miles from one airline to another
  • A credit reporting agency’s policy to keep information about Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions that have been dismissed on consumers’ files longer than bankruptcies filed under the same chapter that were approved
  • Use of cash reload cards as a method of payment to scammers

(Editor’s Note: If you’re worried about scams and identity thieves, you should keep a close eye on your financial accounts. You may also want to monitor your credit scores, since any unexpected changes in your scores could be the first sign of identity theft. You can check two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.)

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Image: iStock

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