Top 10 scams of 2006
After examining roughly 50,000 consumer complaints last year, Consumer Affairs picked out the ten most insidious scams people fell for in 2006.
Scam: Scammers convince victims that they've won a foreign lottery and that they need to pay a few fees and taxes to clear the award money.
How to protect yourself: Remember that you cannot win a contest you did not enter.
Scam: Scammers send e-mails to victims that look like an official correspondence from a bank, a legitimate online service, or a government agency. Victims are then tricked into entering their personal information at "official" websites. Some fake e-mails ask victims to call a fake 800 number where they are asked to enter personal information via the telephone.
How to protect yourself: Never respond to e-mails asking you for personal information without first double checking the alleged "source" of the contact. If you need to confirm whether something is from your bank, find the official customer service phone number listed on your bank's official website. Don't just go by what is on the e-mail.
Scam: Scammers post fake job listings and "hire" victims as "couriers." Scammers send large checks to victims who are then instructed to deposit that money into their personal accounts, and then wire the money overseas. The checks turn out to be counterfeit and the victim ends up wiring his own money overseas.
How to protect yourself: Beware of any job offer that sounds too good to be true. Always do background checks on the companies hiring you. Be suspicious of any job given to you without an interview.
Scam: This one is the worst one because it is done by legitimate businesses. Consumers are offered "free gifts" either through pop-up ads, junk mail, or spam phone calls. By accepting these gifts, consumers are enrolled into some kind of "discount club" or "travel club" which will end up charging them mebership fees if they don't cancel it. Usually this whole process isn't made clear to the consumers. Personally I've had to cancel a whole bunch of these deals for my parents.
How to protect yourself: Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. Tell your banks and credit cards to stop offering you these gifts.
Scam: Scammers pose as rich people from Nigeria who desperately need someone in the United States to help them transfer some money or help them claim a large inheritance. The catch is you need to send them some cash to help with the initial fees involved.
How to protect yourself: Remember that unless you are Alan Dershowitz, Madonna, or Oprah, no one should be contacting you for help.
Scam: Junk e-mails with unsolicited stock advice are sent to millions of investors touting the bright future of certain "hot" stocks. The scammers already hold millions of shares (these are usually penny stocks), and when enough victims buy the stock, the scammers dump their shares.
How to protect yourself: Get Gmail and stop worrying about junk mail.
Scam: Infomercials make amazing claims about fuel-saving devices that never quite work out in the real world.
How to protect yourself: Stop watching infomercials and start practicing gas efficient driving.
Scam: This sucks. People call older folks pretending to be their grandchildren. "Help me, I need some money but don't tell mom okay?"
How to protect yourself: Call your grandparents once in a while!
Scam: Scammers pretend to give or sell tickets to the Oprah show to victims. Victims reveal personal information during the process.
How to protect yourself: Visit Oprah's official website and get tickets through there.
10. Craigslist Scam
Scam: There are tons of variations of scams on Craigslist. Think about scams 1 through 9, and multiply the craziness by a thousand.
How to protect yourself: Don't give away any personal information or money to anyone on Craigslist. And that girl who said she was a 17-year-old Japanese exchange student looking to have some fun? Answer that ad and you'll wake up in Chinatown with a kidney missing.
Think you are too sophisticated for any of these scams? Test yourself again Ryan and his infamous "$40 in a box" con (video plays automatically after jump).
(Did you just use the link I gave you? What did I tell you in #2? ALWAYS independently verify a link before you even think about giving away any personal information! OK, here is the real Oprah's official website)
Photo by chefrandon under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.