Arlington, Va. - The Better Business Bureau has released its annual Top Ten Scams list.
Here are BBB's Top Ten Scams of 2012:
Top Overpayment/Fake Check Scam: Car Ads
The online ad says something like "Get Paid Just for Driving Around" - a prominent company is offering $400+ per week if you'll drive around with their logo all over your car. They send a check which later bounces, after you wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who is then nowhere to be found.
Top Emergency Scam: Grandparents Scam
The "Grandparents Scam" involves a grandchild/niece/nephew/friend traveling abroad and calling, texting or emailing to say he or she needs money right away.
Top Employment Scam: Mystery Shopping
If you love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But scammers have figured that out, too, and many job offers are nothing more than a variation on the fake check scam listed above.
Top Advance Fee/Prepayment Scam: Nonexistent Loans
Loan scams continued to fester in 2012. Most of the scams advertise online and promise things like no credit check or easy repayment terms. Then the hook: you have to make the first payment upfront, you have to buy an "insurance policy," or there is some other kind of fee that you have to pay first to "secure" the loan. This year some consumers were threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn't "pay back" loans they said they had never even taken out in the first place.
Top Phishing Scam: President Obama Will Pay Your Utility Bills
At the peak of summer with utility costs soaring, consumers got emails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a "new government program" to pay your utility bills. Victims "registered" with an official-looking website and provided everything scammers needed for identity theft purposes.
Top Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam: Jamaican Phone Lottery
This is an old one that flared up again this year. In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876) but the person claims to represent BBB. Great news: you've won a terrific prize, but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings.
Top Identity Theft Scam: Fake Facebook Tweets
Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year's top scams. You get a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook. In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn't a new version of Flash; it's a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone.
Top Home Improvement Scam: Sandy "Storm Chasers"
This year BBB saw an unusual amount of "storm chaser" activity following Super Storm Sandy. Tree removal, roofing, general home repairs -- some were legitimate contractors who came from other areas for the volume of work available; others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work.
Top Sales/Rental Scam: Real Stars, Fake Goods
From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to have their hands in your pocket all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears that 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers were selling cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums. Others set up websites that just stole your money and never had any goods to begin with.
Scam of the Year: Newtown Charity Scams
Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, social media pages dedicated to the child victims began cropping u and some of them were scams asking for money. The FBI has already arrested one woman for posing as the aunt of one of the children killed, and state and federal agencies are investigating other possible fraudulent and misleading solicitations
The Better Business Bureau has launched two websites in the last year to help consumers figure out which offers are real and which ones might be fraudulent.