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Top Scam of 2011: Job-Hunting Schemes

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Job-hunting scams were named the top scam of 2011 by the Better Business Bureau, which reviewed complaints to determine the most reported cons of last year.

The more notable job-hunting scams included secret shopper schemes, work-from-home scams and other phony job offers. However, the BBB said the most egregious versions are ones that allow targets to interview for a phony job in an attempt to get them to provide their Social Security number and bank account information upon “hire.” The scams are designed to prey on folks desperate to find work in a slow economy.

The other top scam categories of the year are, in order of popularity, as follows:

Sweepstakes and lottery scams. Scammers trick victims into thinking they won a large sum of money to get personal information or to get them to click on a link that downloads malware onto their computer.

Social media/online dating scams. Scammers get victims to click on links posted on social media sites by offering coupons or the opportunity to see footage of big news event, such as the death of Osama Bin Laden, then spam all their friends via the same social network.

Home-improvement scams. Especially prevalent following natural disasters, these scams feature phony contractors going door-to-door offering cheap repairs that ultimately never will be completed.

Check-cashing scams. These scams typically involve a phony cashier’s check to pay for goods or services. Scammers send fraudulent checks for more than the item or service is worth, then ask you to wire back to the difference, only to have the original check bounce days later.

Phishing scams. Thieves send emails under the guise of being a legitimate company, often using the name of a well-known brand, to get victims to give away personal information or click on links to malware.

Identity-theft scams. Scammers steal someone’s identity either through email, regular mail, fax, phone or even someone’s trash, then use this information to apply for credit cards, loans, or even to commit crimes.

Financial and loan-modification scams. Scammers pose as fake mortgage relief companies or government agencies in an effort to get those already in dire financial straits to part with their money.

Sales scams. Scammers advertise a product at a discount to get consumers to bid on it in bogus penny auctions.

Imposter scams, grandparent scams. This recurring scam, which popped again this past August, sees scammers calling and posing as a grandchild in distress in an attempt to get seniors to wire them emergency money.

What other cons commonly prey on the elderly? Find out in MainStreet’s roundup of 10 scams targeting seniors.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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