The ultimate list of the year’s worst scams
Many of the same scams are repeated each year, often driven by financial life moments such as taxes, holiday shopping, and utility scams. Also, identity thieves and scammers often try new twists on old scams that worked in the past.
So far this year, several different and new scams have made the news, listed here in alphabetical order:
1. Airbnb Scam
This scam involving users of the popular AirBnB site that lets travelers rent an apartment or house. The scam starts with an impostor home or apartment owner directing the renter towards a fraudulent or “spoof” website to finalize payment for the rental.
Those fake sites result in lost money and no place to stay because the rental property being discussed is usually not even available. In fact, the real owners are most likely unaware that their property is being spoofed by scammers.
2. “Can You Hear Me” and “Yes” Calls
This scam happens when you answer the phone and the person on the other line asks: “Can you hear me?” and you respond, “Yes.” Your voice is being recorded to obtain a voice signature for scammers authorize fraudulent charges over the phone.
You can visit the FCC website to block any unwanted calls.
3. Car Scams
The FBI shared information on a growing scam where crooks are targeting those looking to buy cars and other vehicles online. The FBI has received 26,967 complaints with losses totaling $54,032,396 since tracking this issue from May 2014 through December 2017.
This car scam starts with a criminal posting an online advertisement with a low price to get the attention of a buyer, including photos of the vehicle and contact information. When a buyer reaches out, the “seller” sends more photos and what appears as a logical reason why the price is discounted and indicates a need to sell.
The criminal then instructs you to purchase prepaid gift cards in the amount of the sale and share the prepaid codes. You’re usually told you’ll receive the vehicle in a couple days. Then you don’t hear back from them again you’re left without your money and still in need of a car.
4. Cryptocurrency Scams
As the price and popularity of Bitcoin and other cyber-currencies skyrocketed in late 2017, scammers eagerly sought to take advantage of the frenzy.
The Japanese Bitcoin exchange Coincheck was hacked in January and the thieves were able to steal more than $500 million in cryptocurrencies. This is the largest cryptocurrency hack to date.
Facebook and Instagram have banned advertisements for certain bitcoin, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and some other cryptocurrency-related products because of deceptive and misleading practices. Several ads were leading victims to sites such as Prodeum, whose only purpose was to take their money and not provide the advertised service.
5. Death Threat Hoax
The FBI came out warning consumers about death threats being made through emails that state “I will be short. I’ve got an order to kill you.”
The email then demands money or bitcoin as a payout from the email recipients. Other versions of the scam could state that a “hitman has been hired to kill” them. This scam is very aggressive and threatening in nature to convince people that they have to pay or else.
6. Fake Bank Apps
Big banks have scammers posing as them in the form of apps. A recent survey by an Avast, a multi-national cybersecurity firm, found that one in three worldwide users mistakenly believed that a fake mobile banking app was the real thing, putting their financial data at risk. Thieves use the big customer base of major banks to try to get past the secure app stores and collect personal information.
Jackpotting is a new cyber-attack scam that the Secret Service warned financial institutions about criminals installing software or hardware on ATMs that force the machines to issue large amounts of cash. Criminals have found ways to exploit the standalone machines commonly found in pharmacies, big-box retailers, and some drive-thru ATMs.
It’s hard to know the exact financial implications because sometimes these crimes aren’t disclosed publicly, but any time money is missing, it’s sure to have an impact on the banks and ultimately you, the consumer, in the former of higher fees or more obstacles to accessing your cash.
8. Netflix Scam
The popular service is the target of an email phishing scam featuring the subject line “payment declined,” which may get your attention if you are a subscriber. The email wants you to click on a link to update your credit card information.
If you see this don’t click on the link because it can be dangerous malware. Visit your Netflix account by typing the address in yourself to check your account as a safer means of verifying your account status.
9. Porting Scams
The scam called “porting” involves criminals stealing your phone number and your phone service in order to get access to your bank account through confirmation text messages. Scammers start by collecting your name, phone number and then gather any other information they can find about you such as your address, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Then they contact your mobile carrier and state that your phone has been stolen and ask that the number be “ported” to another provider and device. Once your number has been ported to a new device, scammers can then start accessing your accounts that require additional authorization such as code texted to your phone.
10. Romance Scams
Though Valentine’s Day is over, romance scams will continue to pop up throughout the year. A scam typically involves a criminal setting up an account on a dating site with fake information and photos for a profile that is too good to be true.
Once a target has been established, the scam usually escalates to the thief’s unveiling of a money problem. Typical scenarios include the request for funds so he or she can travel to meet you in person or to help a sick relative.
Unfortunately, seniors are the primary targets for romance scams, since they often spend more time alone as they age. Romance scams cost Americans more than $230 million as nearly 15,000 people were conned in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
11. Secretary of State Scam
This scam starts when you receive an email claiming to be from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says you’re owed a payment he knows about because of an investigation by the FBI and CIA.
The scam reportedly states that you will receive an ATM card with more than $1 million dollars on it, but first you have to send $320 along with personal information to receive it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)says this is false—warning Americans to not fall for this—or anytime you’re told you have won a prize, owe money, or may go to jail.
12. Shimmer Scams
A shimmer scam is an update on skimming except that thieves are using “shimmers” to target chip-based credit and debit cards. A shimmer is a very thin piece of paper that can read your card number and access your credit or debit card’s EMV chip—the chip designed to help make your card more secure.
A thief will put a shimmer into an ATM and let it collect information from each card that is used, allowing them to then create a non-chip version or magnetic strip credit card. Shimmers have been showing up more recently despite first being reported on in 2015. In 2017, the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—typically via skimming devices that capture card data—rose 10%, according to FICO.
13. Tax Arrest Scam
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently warned the public about “sophisticated phone scams” targeting taxpayers by claiming to be IRS employees. The scammers demand that the victims owe money to the IRS and to pay them promptly or be arrested, deported or have their driver’s license suspended.
Sometimes, the caller becomes aggressive, warning people that a Sheriff or local law enforcement will show up at their door if they don’t pay immediately. The IRS warning also reminded consumers that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone, threaten to bring in local police, ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes.
To learn more on scams and how to stay protected, check out the Experian blog.
Matt Tatham is the manager of content insights and data analyst at Experian Consumer Services, a division of Experian, the nation’s largest credit bureau.