Consumer scam complaints are on the rise

September 12, 2012 1:09:21 PM PDT
The economy may be struggling, but there is one segment that is booming. Unfortunately that business has one goal, ripping you off.

Complaints about fraud and identity theft are up sharply. Consumer Reports says scam artists are cleverly exploiting all kinds of new technology to rip you off.

Susan Feinberg was stunned to find out that criminals had raided her home equity line of credit by pretending to be her.

"We discovered that they had cashed checks for $17,000," she said.

Susan isn't sure how the crooks got crucial information like her Social Security number and mother's maiden name, but frequently people are fooled into sharing those details online.

Consumer Reports reveals America's worst scams, many of which tap into ever-changing technology.

Kim Kleman with Consumer Reports said, "We've cautioned against phishing emails that trick you to reveal your personal information. But now scammers have figured out how to lure you on your cell phone."

In this type of fraud, called smishing, a phony link from a major retailer appears in a text message offering, for instance, a $1,000 gift voucher. The goal? Grabbing your information.

Even email phishing scams have gotten more sophisticated, imitating things such as an email to confirm a flight or an invoice from UPS.

"Old-fashioned scams also work," Klemen said. "We found plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the door, or over the phone."

For instance, callers who say they're from a reputable company offer to slash your credit card interest rate or fix a computer virus they've detected. All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive financial information.

Kleman said, "Bottom line -- never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out."

Fortunately, the bank agreed Susan was not responsible for the $17,000 stolen. She did set up a fraud alert with the three major credit reporting bureaus. Consumer Reports also recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.

To add insult to injury, Consumer Reports says people who are scammed can be targeted by another scam -- crooks who promise to recover your stolen money. They charge hundreds of dollars and don't recover your losses.

A lot of the scams currently in use involve jobs. People are looking for work and they are going online to find them. Scammers have all sorts of tricks to get money out of those looking for work.


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