Marketplace scams represent a $50 billion drain on the U.S. economy, robbing consumers and legitimate businesses alike. Scams have a negative impact on one in four households and one in five individuals each year. These thieves masquerade as trusted brands, erode consumer confidence in the marketplace and often hide on the internet.
Last year, people in the U.S. and Canada reported more than 47,000 scams to BBB’s Scam Tracker. The collected data was analyzed using a proprietary BBB Scam Index which reviewed exposure, susceptibility and monetary loss. The findings showed that online purchase scams are considered the riskiest form of fraud. The majority of online purchase scams happen when a payment is made online in exchange for a good or service, but nothing is delivered as promised. The most common online purchase scams in 2017 were related to pets, clothing, cosmetics, electronics and automobiles. The offer of free trials was a common tactic for these online purchases; 67 percent of scams involving cosmetics and 60 percent involving nutrition products mentioned a free trial opportunity.
Victims weren’t only defrauded online, they were also contacted by phone and email. The 2.4 billion robocalls recorded by the Federal Communications Commission in 2016 was enough to prompt industry and consumer stakeholders to come up with creative initiatives to block these calls from coming into the country. Efforts continue to educate the public to consider using a blocking service on their phone or don’t answer a call from an unfamiliar number. If thieves are looking for personal information like a username, password or access an account, the most popular way to gain this information is to phish for it, meaning sending emails pretending to be from a reputable company in order to convince someone to reveal personal information.
Scammers are so successful at their craft because they make the promise of a great deal that is often too good to be true. Once the pitch is made, they’ll make a high-pressure push to get an immediate response without allowing time for the victim to think about it. If that doesn’t work, the fraudster will resort to intimidation and the idea something bad will happen such as imprisonment, fees or in some cases deportation.
The continued fight against scams is critical to limiting the financial and emotional damage to victims. By continuing to report robocalls, phishing attempts and social media imposters to BBB’s Scam Tracker, it can only help restore consumer confidence in honest businesses. For information on specific scams and tips on how to avoid them, visit BBB.org/ScamTips and report a scam to scamtracker.org. For a full copy of the report, go to http://us.bbb.org/2017riskreport.
Sandra Guile is a Better Business Bureau community outreach specialist. She can be reached at 513-639-9126 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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