Top 10 Scams of 2008

Posted by T | 7:44 PM | | 0 comments »

Maybe it was the holidays, or the fact that the economy has taken a tumble, but I have noticed a lot more spam, and scam, emails winding up in my account's inbox. I have been receiving so much spam, in fact, that my junk mail filter can't even siphon it all into the "junk" file in my email accounts.

It's not my imagination, either. Scams are on the increase. A down economy is a ripe opportunity for some unscrupulous people to try to rip off the unsuspecting consumer. Everybody is looking to make more money these days...including the crooks.

With that in mind, the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois has compiled a list of the Top Ten Scams of 2008. I think I have seen almost all of these pop up in my email, or I have heard of someone getting ripped off by them in the news. Perhaps you have, too.

1. Check Scams. Realistic-looking checks wind up in your snail mail, supposedly from a lottery or promotion you never entered, but hey....you won! All you have to do is send a check back to the sender to cover the taxes. Wrong! The check you received is bogus. The check you sent back, unfortunately, was not.

2. Advance fee lenders. These crooks offer quick loans with approval in just 24 to 48 hours. They might even have a snazzy-looking website. All you have to do is send a check to cover fees. Bad idea. The victim never sees the loan, but again, the crooks have your check.

3. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams. Well, the vultures are out in full force with this one, preying on homeowners who are facing losing their homes. These scam artists contact the foreclosed homeowner out of the blue (using information from public records) and say they know of a loophole that will help them save their house. All they have to do is pay some upfront funds (or hand over personal info like a Social Security number). Not only does the homeowner still lose their house, but they lose their money, too.

4. Credit Repair and Debt Negotiation Scams. The crooks offer promises of getting a certain percentage of your debt forgiven or reduced, and that they can get negatives deleted from your credit report if you just pay them some money. Wrong. Not only do these scamsters not repair your credit, but they could actually do more damage to your credit rating.

5. Work-at-home and fake job offers. These guys promise big bucks for doing little work. The catch: just pay them a fee for investments, training kits or other materials. Even if you do receive the "training kits" the information is usually worthless. Not only did you not make big bucks, but you have lost money, too.

6. Phishing and fake e-cards. Hey, somebody sent you an e-card! Cute. All you have to do to get it is enter a bunch of sensitive info into a web site. What? Phishing is even meaner. The consumer might receive an email that says there is a "security threat" or that the consumer's bank account is in danger of being closed (some of these scams say your Paypal account is going to be closed). Want to keep you account open? Just click on this link and confirm your account information. Don't do it! Banks and Paypal will never email you to "confirm" your info.

7. Mystery and Secret shopper scams. My wife actually worked as a secret shopper for awhile, so there are legitimate companies out there that do this. And then there are these guys. They'll help you find the mystery shopper jobs, for a fee. Legitimate services might have you register with them, but they'll never ask for money. They want you to work for them, and they'll pay you.

8. Phony directories and Yellow Pages. This is one I've actually never heard of. Soliciters call small business to "renew" their listing in the Yellow Pages. Turns out they aren't from "that" Yellow Pages and now they want money for their service, usually hundreds of dollars. If business don't pay, they get sent to a collection agency and face damage to their credit rating.

9. Goverment loans and grants. Have you seen the infomercial with Matthew Lesko, the guy who wears a suit with question marks all over it, and he sells a book which will help you find all kinds of government loans and grants? That guy is legit. It's the emails that pop up in your inbox which promise they can help you locate all of the "free" government cash (for a price) that are sketchy. Some of them are downright expensive, but the bottom line is that ANYBODY can find ANY of this information on their own, for free.

10. Bogus weight loss products. Take your pick. There is no shortage of scam weight loss products being offered to the public. Here is some free weight loss advice which I used to lose 30 pounds earlier this year: eat less, exercise more. I just saved you hundreds of dollars.

This isn't in the Top Ten list, but I'll add one of my own, only because I get these emails every single day. It's usually from somebody in Nigeria who says a "long lost relative" of mine has died and left me millions of dollars. All I have to do is send them money to help facilitate the bank transfer.

The bottom line is this: don't pay upfront fees for any of these services, especially if you didn't contact them in the first place; make sure the people you are dealing with are who they say they are, and don't expect something for nothing. You know the old saying: if it's too good to be true, it usually is.

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