The scammer poses as a potential employer. Everything looks legit — emails, websites and online applications. You apply, you may even interview over the phone. Surprise: You get the “job.” They say your Social Security number and bank information are needed for direct deposit. Kiss your ID and checking account goodbye.
You won! Not. The scammer says you won a ton, and to collect all you need to do is send a smaller amount of money. Don’t let celebrity or company endorsements fool you. Real sweepstakes are supposed to be promotions — go to the real website of the company and check it out.
With social media, it is easy for a scammer to sound like a long-lost friend. A few clicks and they can send you a really cool video of a dancing cat. Except when you click to see the kitten trip the light fantastic, you instead get a message telling you to “upgrade your Flash player.” You click and download the scammer’s software that logs into your account and sends the same message to your friends — once again looking for personal data for identity theft.
Scammers can be home improvement contractors who suddenly show up with a great deal for you on fixing your loose roof shingles or resealing your driveway. They get the money and do little or shoddy work and then are gone.
Scammers say they want to buy that ratty couch you listed on CraigsList.com and send you a check for it. Only they send too much money “by accident” and ask you to send the difference back to them by Western Union. Western Union’s transfers are instant money. The scammer’s check bounces. No money and you still have the ratty couch.
Scammers “phish” for your personal information by phone calls, viruses and bogus emails. One scam email this year posed as one from NACHA — the National Automated Clearing House Association. The real NACHA helps secure transfers of billions of electronic transactions every year. Your fake NACHA email says one of your transactions didn’t go through and you need to verify account information. Bad idea — you either give away the keys to your money or download bad software looking for your identity information.
Your peaceful sleep in the hotel is interrupted by the desk clerk. The hotel’s computer crashed and they need to reenter your credit card information. You groggily comply. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a desk clerk, it was a scammer who knew the number to your room — and he is going on a midnight spending spree.
Really scummy scammers look for the people who are in desperate situations — like people who are having trouble paying their mortgages. You may think you are taking advantage of a government program, but really it is a scammer taking advantage of you and, of course, requiring money to help you deal with your mortgage or the government — something you could have done on your own for free.
The online penny auction combines the excitement of an online auction with the excitement of gambling and the excitement of being ripped off. Instead of bidding and only paying if you win, instead you pay a small amount for each bid you make. You lose the auction, you lose the bid money. Winners are not always the high bidder either, so it is almost random. The BBB recommends you treat penny auctions like gambling — know how it works and set a limit for yourself.
What else would the Better Business Bureau pick as the scam of the year but the phishing scam where the scammers posed as the Better Business Bureau? The email says you have a complaint against your business. You respond by clicking on the link and you become the one who is complaining because you downloaded a virus that steals your passwords, account information and more. Use a reputable anti-virus software to clean up the mess.