The Better Business Bureau is revealing the top scams of 2022 in Western Michigan. These scams are ranked based on the number of BBB Scam Tracker entries and impact on consumers.
- Online Purchases
The top scam in our Western Michigan coverage area was online purchase scams. This is the second year in a row online purchase scams topped the list in our area. Many of the online scams reported started on social media. Online purchase scams are the riskiest scam for consumers, according to the 2021 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. A recent BBB study on online purchase scams shows 25% of consumers using BBB Scam Tracker reported being targeted by a scam while browsing social media.
Scammers often target consumers on social media with product photos from a legitimate business. When the consumer clicks on the ad, it leads them to a fraudulent, copycat site. After placing an order, victims report receiving nothing or receiving counterfeit items compared to what the ad promised. Most attempts to get a refund or contact someone from the online store go unanswered.
"Scammers know we are shopping online and target consumers casually scrolling through social media feeds,” says Lisa Frohnapfel, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Western Michigan. “Don’t let the too-good-to-be-true prices and flashy advertisements lure you into clicking on fraudulent sites and handing over your hard-earned money.”
The type of online purchase scam costing Michiganders the most money continues to be pet scams. Earlier this month, BBB updated a 2017, in-depth study on the impact of puppy scams. You can read the update here. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office also recently warned consumers about puppy scams.
This year, a Muskegon County woman lost $6,000 after she thought she was buying a new puppy. The scammer continued to ask for payments in gift cards over the phone until the woman realized she was never receiving the puppy.
The second riskiest scam was employment scams. It has been one of the riskiest for consumers for the past 5 years.
Dozens of victims from around the country were scammed this year when they applied for remote positions with a fake package-forwarding service. The company appeared legitimate by using an address in Cadillac, MI. Victims were approached by the scammer and offered a job with no interview or face-to-face contact. Victims shared their social security numbers and banking information for background checks and direct-payment setup. After doing work for weeks, no one was paid and all communication with the employer was cut off.
Fake employers often pose as real, familiar companies and target resumes on job seeking sites. These employers may also ask for the new employee to cover the cost of training or equipment, with the promise of being reimbursed.
The third riskiest scam was phishing scams. Scammers use email, phone calls or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal and financial information. The messages often look like they are from a company you know and trust. The message urges you to click a link, share information, call a phone number, or download an attachment which likely contains malware. In the case of an email or text, the link frequently leads to a form, which prompts the target to enter personal information.
Tips to avoid online purchase and pet scams:
- Research before you buy. Always research businesses before you purchase, especially if you aren't familiar with the company. Check BBB.org. Read consumer reviews on other websites and do a quick online search for the business name along with the word "scam" to rule out any suspicious activity spotted by other consumers.
- Watch out for social media scams. Con artists love using social media to promote their scams. Some red flags include deals that seem too good to be true, phony personalized products, fake coupons, and product links that lead to questionable websites. Conduct a reverse image search on photos attached to ads.
- Only shop on secure sites. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shady.
- Use a credit card. Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods.
- See pets in-person before paying any money.
Tips to avoid employment scams:
- Research the job offer and verify the email address matches the actual company. Call or go directly to the actual company's website for contact information to verify the job posting. Be wary of a gmail business email address.
- Be cautious of work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are likely scams.
- Be wary of job offers that don’t require an interview. Reputable companies prefer to talk to top job candidates before hiring them.
- Vague job descriptions and big money for small tasks is a red flag. These too-good-to-be-true offers are often an attempt to steal your personal information from a fake job application.
- Be cautious in providing personal information such as your full address, birthdate and financial information in your resume or to unverified recruiters and online applications.
Tips to avoid Phishing scams:
- Call the company directly or checking the company website directly. Don’t click on links in an unexpected email – type the URL for the company into the browser or do a web search to find the right website.
- Don’t click, download, or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is likely an attempt to gain access to your personal information or install malware on your computer.
- Question generic emails. Scammers cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of unsolicited messages that don't contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information.
- Protect your computer by using security software. Set the software to update automatically so it will deal with any new security threats.
Where to report scams:
- Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.
- Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed. Monitor your statements and if you suspect fraud, ask for a refund.???