The Top 10 scams of 2013 announced

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And the envelope, please.

The Better Business Bureau has announced its Top 10 Scams of 2013.

We all owe the scammers of 2013 a debt of gratitude for ingraining a deep distrust in us for any good thing that may come our way.

We’ve learned never to give any personal information or even the civil time of day to anyone calling us on the phone, and organizations that raise money for worthy causes on our phones or in our email inboxes just aren’t worthy anymore.

Yet, according to the Better Business Bureau, it receives thousands of calls and emails every year from consumers who have been bilked, fleeced and plucked by the crop of ever-more creative scammers.

The BBB says the Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans lost $1.4 billion to scams in 2012 and 2013’s totals are looking to be even higher. Think of it as individual-to-individual foreign aid, since many of the scammers work out of Eastern Europe or Nigeria. And those who are domestically based use our former finances to stimulate the economy.

But as an educational tool, the scammers are a disappointment. People still get suckered at astonishing rates.

“Some scams are widespread, getting a lot of people for small amounts,” the BBB said.  “Others are more narrowly focused, but take people for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.”

But enough preamble. Let’s get to those Top 10 Scams before the excitement wears off.

First, we have the Medical Alert Scam. This is a new twist to twist dollars out of unwary senior citizens or caretakers. The set-up is the scammer tells the intended victim a friend or family member has purchased a medical alert system for them. Of course to get the “free” system the victim must prove who they are with bank account numbers or other private information. The system never arrives, but there’s a pesky monthly charge it takes a lot of effort to end, and there’s never a refund.

Coming in at No. 2 on the 2013 Top 10 Scam List is Auction Reseller Scam. This preys on sellers on eBay and other online auction websites. The alleged buyer needs the product immediately and asks for same-day shipping. A confirmation email shows up from PayPal. But the email’s a fraud and the seller never sees the goods again. Always confirm payment to eBay and PayPal accounts before shipping items sold, especially to overseas addresses to avoid that individual-to-individual foreign aid.

No. 3 on the BBB list is the Arrest Warrant Scam. Technology exists to fake Caller ID addresses. The victim gets a call, seemingly from a local law agency. It seems there’s a warrant sworn against the victim and an arrest is imminent. But you can avoid that by paying a fine. Credit cards aren’t accepted, but wire transfers or pre-paid debit cards work nicely. No one gets arrested, not even the scammer that just cheated you. Don’t believe a phone call that you are about to be arrested. If they want you, they’ll come get you.

The Invisible Home Improvement Scam ranks four on the list. Sometimes the homeowner is approached by telemarketing or sometimes the contractor comes to the door. The offer is for some home repair somewhere you seldom see: ductwork, crawl spaces, chimneys, etc. The homeowner may hear a lot of banging. But no work gets done or substandard work. Check the bbb.org or the city’s licensed contractors’ list before hiring anyone to work on your home.

The Casting Call Scam works only if you have talent or think you do. A scammer claiming to be a talent agent or scout hoodwinks the would-be performer with fees for casting calls, publicity photo packages or acting or singing lessons. But it’s all an act to get your money or if you pay with a credit card, your private information.

Halfway through the top 10 list is the Foreign Currency Scam. You’re told if you buy into the Iraqi Dinar, the Vietnamese Dong or more recently the Egyptian Pound your profits will skyrocket when you sell after those governments revalue their currency. You might as well invest in Confederate dollars. Even if you get actual currency, reselling it is difficult and profits seldom appear.

The “Smishing” Scam ranks No. 7. You receive a scam text message on your smartphone, known as “smishing.” It seeks to steal your personal information. The text will look like it comes from your bank asking you to confirm information or reactivate your debit card. If you follow through on the link, the scammer gets your personal information and maybe downloads software onto your phone to access any data in it.

Next in line is the Do Not Call Scam. The National Do Not Call Registry is ineffective at keeping scammers at bay. Some will even pretend to be government officials wanting to renew your listing on the registry. Some want to charge you, but all are seeking your personal information. Just hang up.

At No. 9 is the Fake Friend Scam. Facebook users may occasionally get a friend request from someone they thought already was a friend. It may be a scammer. and if you hit “Accept” you just invited one in. Online identities are being stolen at an increasing rate to fake profiles. That can give access for information that can be used later to scam you or download malware to mine information about your other friends. Keep your privacy settings high on social media. The BBB warns about sharing any private information unless you’re certain your friends are your friends.

And now for the Better Business Bureau’s 2013 Scam of the Year. Drum roll, please.

The top scam is the Affordable Care Act Scam. No, no… not the one where you were promised you could keep your plan if you liked your plan, this one is another attempt to get your private information. No, no… not the one at government.org this one has nothing to do with the government. It’s private scammers pretending to be government. They claimed that they could help the victim get signed up, get a Medicare card or insurance card. But, of course, they needed a lot of private information before they could send the cards out. They may quote your bank’s routing number and ask you for your account number. They may want your credit card or Social Security numbers or Medicare ID or other private information. Keep it private and don’t share it with those who contact you.

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