Scariest Scams of 2009

  • The best of the worst

    The Better Business Bureau recently released its list of 2009’s top 10 scams and rip-offs. Were you taken by any of these cons? Click Next to read about the awful and manipulative swindles that made the BBB list and a few bonus scams that MainStreet reported on as well. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #10: Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam
  • #10: Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam

    As the BBB writes, “A perennial problem, phishing e-mails pop up in inboxes and can take various forms such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or official or even a friend. Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing e-mail is the same: to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect the victim’s computer with viruses and malware.” They also note that spam e-mails selling bogus H1N1 prevention products were especially “rampant” last year. I hate any sort of spam, but lazy typo-ridden phishing e-mails are the worst. Somehow, I think if Bank of America needed to confirm my Social Security number, they wouldn’t be using a Hotmail address and they wouldn’t be running their operations on a free Geocities page. And they would have a copy editor to weed out the most egregious errors. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #9: Over-Payment Scams
  • #9: Over-Payment Scams

    How does this one work? “Over-payment scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent and sellers on classifieds or sites like Craigslist. Typically the scammer pretends to be a customer, possible renter or interested buyer, respectively. The victim receives a check for more than the amount requested. The scammers then ask the victim to deposit the check and wire the extra amount elsewhere, such as to a shipping company. Ultimately though, the check is fake and the victim is really wiring money back to the scammers.” Never trust a check from Craigslist. Demand cash or a verified PayPal transfer. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #8: Mystery Shopping
  • #8: Mystery Shopping

    The BBB explains that mystery shopping isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “Consumers across the country thought that they could make some extra money by becoming a secret shopper and evaluating the customer service of various stores. The victim is asked to evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores as well as a money wiring service such as Western Union or MoneyGram by wiring money back to the scammers. A seemingly real looking check is supposed to cover the costs, but ends up being a fake. The victim is out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.” Never wire money to anyone you don’t know. It’s that simple. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #7: Foreclosure Rescue Scams
  • #7: Foreclosure Rescue Scams

    “Many families are struggling in the current economy and hucksters are offering to help them save their house from foreclosure or help them get out of credit card debt. Unfortunately, victims are paying hundreds of dollars up front for the assistance they desperately need but ultimately never receive,” the BBB explained. Taking what little is left of someone’s money when they’re down on their luck is low. The lowest of the low, in my opinion. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #6: Google Work From Home Scam
  • #6: Google Work From Home Scam

    “Countless Web sites cropped up in 2009 that claimed you could learn how to make money from home using Google or Twitter and offered a free trial of learning materials. The Web sites often included the Google or Twitter moniker and logo. As a result, many people who complained to BBB thought they were getting a job with Google or Twitter when in, fact, they were being lured into another misleading free-trial offer and were billed every month for the materials and other mystery charges that added up to hundreds of dollars.” Google can make you rich, especially if you bought shares of the company early on, were one of their earliest employees or own a savvy online product they want to acquire. But stay-at-home parents, take note: Google probably will not make you rich. Unless you launch a very successful blog, your odds of striking Google gold from the comfort of your living room while wearing a Snuggie are slim to none. Keep dreamin’, kids. Check out MainStreet’s take on the Google kit scam here. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #5: Job Hunting Scams
  • #5: Job Hunting Scams

    “Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or social security numbers and requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job.  Another common scam was reported to BBB by job hunters who were told by a prospective employer that they had to check their credit report before being considered for a job. The job offer is actually a marketing ploy for online credit monitoring that costs the victim every month until they cancel.” You should never have to pay anything to be considered for a position. No application fee or credit report. If the company is legitimate, they will do the background check on you at their expense. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #4: Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam
  • #4: Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam

    “The victim receives a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery claiming that he or she has won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents only a portion of the total winnings. In order to get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers supposedly to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.” Just avoid anything lottery- or prize-related. Chances are, they aren’t going to knock on your door and hand you that oversized promotional check for $5 million. Work for your money. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #3: Robocalls
  • #3: Robocalls

    “Owning a cell phone or having their phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the US put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009.  The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire—which wasn’t true—or offered help in reducing their interest rate on their credit card. The prevalence of robocalls violating federal telemarketing laws prompted the FTC to increase restrictions on the practice in 2009.” Damn robots. Always interrupting my dinner. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #2: Stimulus and government grant scams
  • #2: Stimulus and government grant scams

    “Even before President Obama announced the stimulus plan in February, scammers had already set up schemes for misleading consumers and small business owners into thinking they could get a piece of the pie. Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.” No, Obama is not going to hand you a $100,000 check. That’s the lottery (see the last slide), not “stimulus.” Photo Credit: Getty Images
    #1: Acai supplements and bogus trial offers
  • #1: Acai supplements and bogus trial offers

    “Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanket the Internet, including trusted Web sites of national news organizations. The marketing campaigns often falsely claimed an endorsement by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Doctor Oz. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.” They’re just berries, people. You are going to get old eventually. Magical acai berries won’t save you from that reality, so don’t waste your money. Photo Credit: borderlys
    Other scams
  • Other scams

    Beware these other important scams we reported on this year at MainStreet. Photo Credit: Don Hankins
    5 debt scams
  • 5 debt scams

    When you’re in debt is exactly when you cannot afford to be hit by a crafty con artist. Here are the five debt scams you can’t afford to fall for. Click here to read the story Photo Credit: Andres Rueda
    3 life insurance scams
  • 3 life insurance scams

    Twisting and churning aren’t dance moves – they’re two of the most popular life insurance scams currently out there. Here’s MainStreet’s explanation of what these scams are and how you can protect yourself and your family members. Click here to read the story Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7
    "Fake Grandkids" scam
  • "Fake Grandkids" scam

    If someone claims to be your grandchild, and you have no grandchildren, that may be a sign of something fishy afoot. If this "grandchild" asks for money to be wired, you should be even more suspicious. Click here to read the story Photo Credit: Don Hankins
    "Dead" credit cards
  • "Dead" credit cards

    As if death wasn't bad enough, some con artists are fraudulently opening up credit card accounts in the names of deceased people. Gives new meaning to the word deadbeat, I suppose. Click here to read the story Photo Credit: stevendepolo
    The greatest scams ever
  • The greatest scams ever

    Our roundup of the greatest scams not just of 2009, but of all time. Definitely worth a read. Click here to read the story Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Have you been swindled?
  • Have you been swindled?

    Encounter any of these scams, or something else all together? Tell us about it here in the comments, or on our Facebook page. This way, other readers (hopefully) won’t fall victim to the same rip-off. Photo Credit: Getty Images
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