People suffering in this tough economy were ripe from scam artists in 2009.
The Better Business Bureau released its list of the top 10 rip-offs of 2009 today, and scams attempting to take advantage of the unemployed and others down on their luck were in ample supply.
Following, in no particular order, is BBB’s list of top scams that victimized consumers and small business owners across the U.S. in 2009:
– Acai Supplements and Other “Free” Trial Offers: Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanketed the Internet. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.
— Stimulus/Government Grant Scams: Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.
– Robocalls: Owning a cell phone or having a phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the country put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009. The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire—which wasn’t true—or offered help in reducing the interest rate on their credit card.
– Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam: The victim receives a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publishers Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery claiming that he or she has won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents only a portion of the total winnings. In order to get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers, supposedly to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.
– Job Hunter Scams: Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or Social Security numbers. There are often requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job.
– Google Work from Home Scam: Countless Web sites cropped up that claimed you could learn how to make money from home using Google or Twitter, and offered a free trial of learning materials. Many people thought they were getting a job with Google or Twitter when in, fact, they were being lured into a misleading free-trial offer. They were billed every month for the materials and other mystery charges that added up to hundreds of dollars.
— Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue/Debt Assistance: Hucksters offered to help homeowners stave off foreclosure or get out of credit card debt. Unfortunately, victims are paying hundreds of dollars up front for assistance they need, but never receive.
– Mystery Shopping: Consumers thought that they could make some extra money by becoming a secret shopper and evaluating the customer service of various stores. Victims are asked to evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores, as well as a money wiring service by wiring money back to the scammers. A seemingly real looking check is supposed to cover the costs, but ends up being a fake. Consumers are out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
– Over-Payment Scams: These scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent, as well as sellers who use classified ads or sites like Craigslist. Typically, the scammer pretends to be a customer. The victim receives a check for more than the amount requested. The scammers then ask the victim to deposit the check and wire the extra amount elsewhere, such as to a shipping company. Ultimately though, the check is fake and the victim is really wiring money back to the scammers.
– Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam: Phishing e-mails can take various form, such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or even a friend. Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing e-mail is the same: to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect the victim’s computer with viruses and malware. In addition to phishing e-mails, spam e-mail selling things to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus were particularly rampant in 2009.