USA Today recently reported that there are over 86 million scam calls made every month in the U.S. Add to that number the millions more of email and text scams, and the number is truly staggering. No one is immune from scams. The poor, the elderly, the sick and everyone else can fall victim to the crooks that are constantly trying to get access to others’ money.
The Better Business Bureau, a longtime ally of consumers in the constant battle against scamming criminals, last year unveiled a new online tool to help the cause. Frauds, scams and other malicious activities can now be reported at the recently introduced BBB Scam Tracker site, found at bbb.org/scamtracker/us/. Across the U.S., information about the latest scams can be collected and tracked here. Consumers can log suspected scams at the site, and can view details of incidents as reported by others.
The site has a variety of searching methods whereby users can find out exactly what sort of scams are being reported in the Kansas area (and any other area of the U.S.). Specific scams can be tracked and the amount of money lost to each scam is tallied. So far over 20,000 scams have been reported to Scam Tracker.
Some Kansas figures
In the Kansas area, Scam Tracker has revealed that the most frequent scams, over 16 percent of those reported, are tax related. Nearly 13 percent are sweepstakes, prizes and gift scams. Government grant scams are next with almost 11 percent of the total. Among the other scams with high numbers are work-from-home and debt collection scams.
How to stay vigilant
There are some practices consumers can use to help assure that they will not be victimized by scammers. Here are some of the most important things for all of us to keep in mind in the battle against scams according to the Federal Trade Commission:
• Get their ID. Do online searches for the company’s name and website. Find out what their physical address is, and do not settle for a P.O. Box only.
• Don’t wire money to them. It’s impossible to get your money back and to trace where it really goes.
• Don’t ignore your monthly statements. It’s easy to throw them aside. Instead, read them carefully. Contact your bank or card issuer if you see charges, no matter how tiny, that you don’t recognize.
• Use your doctor. Before buying any health product or treatment, ask your doctor. Also, only by prescription drugs from licensed U. S. pharmacies.
• “Low-risk, high-return” investments are bad news. Don’t fall for it.
• Never wire money to someone you do not know. This especially includes online love interests that you only “know” through messages. When buying online, use a credit card or a well established paying method like PayPal.
• Never agree to deposit a check and wire money back. That is always a scam. You can devastate your finances with such practices.
• Don’t get “phished.” Never reply to messages, texts, emails or phone calls that want your personal financial information. Guard your Social Security number diligently.
• Foreign lotteries, even when a message says you have already won, are scams. Never send money to collect a prize.
Additionally, remember these rules:
• Take your time. Scammers count on hitting you so quickly that you don’t have time to seriously consider their offer.
• Ask lots of questions. They are counting on you being shy and polite. Don’t be.
• Verify what they say. Whoever they claim to be, even if it is a relative, check them out.
• Don’t engage. If the slightest thing seems fishy, hang up. Be rude.
For any questions about dealing with scammers, contact your BBB by calling (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.