Online scams are proliferating. There are growing numbers of hoaxers and con artists out there laboring 24/7 to cheat and trick the unsuspecting, reports the Northern Nevada Better Business Bureau.
According to Tim Johnston, president and CEO of the Northern Nevada BBB, the so-called “online purchase scam” is now the riskiest form of consumer fraud. It relates to the purchase of pets, automobiles, clothing, cosmetics, nutrition products and electronics, many of which offer a free trial opportunity.
Another ruse is in the category of investment scams, which tend to target older age groups and come with a higher average monetary loss. This scam type has jumped from sixth to second place, he added.
Travel and vacation scams also are high on the BBB’s list, with the top destinations being Orlando/Florida, Disney, Mexico/Cancun and the Bahamas, Johnston added.
One of the most common tactics of scammers is impersonation, where the scammer pretends to represent a legitimate business or government agency that is well-known and trusted by the consumer. These legitimate organizations include the Internal Revenue Service, Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft and even the BBB itself.
Although telephone calls have always been an important means of contact by the fraudsters, the Internet has taken over as the top method of contact for scams with high monetary loss, which means that the susceptibility of the Web is higher than phone calls overall, Johnston stated. Regardless of the scam, scammers often rely on the following tactics:
(1) The promise of getting “a great deal,” which is often too good to be true.
(2) Pressure to respond immediately with offers that are time sensitive and prices “that can’t be guaranteed for long.”
(3) Intimidation, for example: “You are under federal investigation” and “You will be arrested within one hour unless you call this number.”
(4) Isolation, which aims to force a decision without consulting the opinions of family and friends.
Scammers can also be very nice and personable, which defy “bad guy” stereotypes and thus make targets more at risk, says the BBB.
As well, the BBB is cautioning Northern Nevadans to be wary of the following other scams that have been successful in pilfering money from consumers’ pocketbooks:
Technical Support Scams are those that prey on people who need assistance when their computers freeze or who receive error messages telling them that their data, e-mail, passwords and other important personal information have been stolen and sent to hackers. Those offering technical support to fix these problems are usually scammers themselves, warns the BBB.
Warning Screen scams are those which begin with an alert message appearing on your computer screen that says a problem has been detected. There will be a number for you to call for help. Never call that number!
Link Scams relate to one’s computer use of search engines to find various products and tech support. Be wary of sponsored ads at the top of the list. Many of these links go directly to scammers bent on cheating consumers.
The BBB says that those who believe they have been deceived by technical support, warning screen and link scams should contact their banks immediately, have their computers checked out by a local, trusted business, have software that authorizes remote access to your computer removed, change passwords that authorize online access to financial institutions and other firms you do business with.
Still another scam, the BBB Scam, relates to consumers who report they have been cheated by scam artists. This scam involves scammers posing as BBB representatives and using the BBB’s official logo offering to investigate and fix the problem if the unsuspecting victim gives the scammers his passwords and financial information.
The Social Media Video Scam is one that sends a Facebook or YouTube video message asking you to link up and “friend” someone. Once you have provided your log-in information to the Facebook and YouTube sites, which, of course, are phony and run by hackers and thieves, these bad guys now are able to hijack your accounts and send other scams and malware to you and/or your real friends. Another continuing scam is the Nigerian E-Mail Scam of being contacted via e-mail from a person in Nigeria claiming to have inherited millions of dollars. This person, often posing as an “important businessman” or member of a royal family, offers to give you part of the millions if you send him up-front “good faith” money. It’s almost impossible to believe anyone would fall for this nonsense, but they do.
My warning here is don’t be fooled by e-mail crooks and hucksters. Call the Northern Nevada BBB, which is headquartered in Sparks, at 775-322-0657.
Tim Johnston and his staff will provide you excellent advice on these and other scams.
And try to follow an old adage I adhere to when warning about crooks, schemers and their scams. It’s “Who knows what evils lurk in the hearts of men?” This adage or idiom comes from the “Shadow” radio, and later TV programs, I listened to and watched as a boy. The Shadow was a crime fighter, and he would have fought the e-mail scammers and tricksters if they existed in his day.
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.