Scammers thrive in bad economy, recessions

When times are tough, rest assured there are always scam artists around to try to make things worse. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it is launching a major sweep to target fraudsters and scammers who proliferate in economic downturns. Scammers thrive on people’s very human vulnerabilities: fear, stress, anxiety, greed, vanity, honesty, and compassion. Where once scammers would use mail, phone, or even local solicitation, today easy to e-mail and websites allows scammers another avenue, one that can deploy pitches widely and quickly. Common schemes in this economy include get-rich-quick schemes, debt-reduction scams, job recruitment scams and work-at-home scams. Authorities warn people to beware of any jobs that require fees: “Pitches for bogus work-at-home opportunities involving medical billing, rebate processing, “mystery shopper” positions that promise to pay you for buying products anonymously for companies, and money-order processing jobs also are on the rise, say Better Business Bureau and consumer-protection officials.”
Then National Consumers League has recently released its semi-annual ranking of the top telemarketing and Internet scams:
Top Scams, Jan. – June 2009
1. Fake Check Scams
2. Internet: Gen Merchandise
3. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts
4. Phishing/Spoofing
5. Nigerian Money Offers (not prizes)
6. Business Opportunities/Franchises/Distributorship
7. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers
8. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles
9. Internet: Auctions
10. Lotteries/Lottery Ticket Buying Clubs
Remember:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is
  • Be super cautious in giving out personal information to anyone, particularly online
  • Learn how to protect against phishing and other online scams designed to get your personal information or your money
  • Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know
  • Avail yourself of consumer protection tools and resources – we’ve compiled some below

Consumer Fraud Resources
FBI Scam Alerts
Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection
Federal Citizen Information Center – Consumer Action Website
Better Business Bureau
State Attorneys General – site links and telephone numbers
State, County, and City Government Consumer Protection Offices
Insurance Scams
Identity Theft Resource Center
National Consumer Law Center