BBB Top 10 List of Scams, Rip-Offs, and Complaints

January 6, 2011 Updated Jan 6, 2011 at 4:28 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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BBB Top 10 List of Scams, Rip-Offs, and Complaints

January 6, 2011 Updated Jan 6, 2011 at 4:28 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (January 6, 2011 release) – The Better Business Bureau today released a list of the top 10 scams, rip-offs and complaint types of 2010 for Upstate New York. Job hunters and those struggling to make money and get out of debt were common targets of fraudsters, hackers and deceptive businesses in this tough economy.

“Scammers had a field day even though the economy is showing signs of a mend, targeting struggling families who were looking for work and trying to make ends meet,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “While some of the most popular scams are persistent problems that continue to plague consumers, some new additions to the list are signs of our tough economic times.”

BBB serving Upstate New York processed nearly 20,000 complaints in 2010 and served over a million consumers in need of reliability report information for free via BBB staff support and online inquiries.

Top 10 Most Complained About Type of Business in 2010:

1. Collection Agencies
2. Auto Repair & Service
3. General Contractors
4. Auto Dealers – Used and New Cars
5. Telephone Companies
6. Publishers – Directory & Guide
7. Loans
8. Furniture - Retail
9. Internet Services
10. Roofing Contractors

Following, in no particular order, is BBB’s list of top scams and rip-offs that took advantage of consumers and small business owners in 2010:

Job Hunter 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. BBB issued alerts to warn against phony payment processing jobs and other online offers.

Work from Home Schemes – Some work from home schemes promise to train you, teach secrets to making money online, claims to make money assembling items at home or get paid to be a mystery shopper. Some victims even found that their opportunity to work from home was a job to fence stolen goods or launder money. The end result is that instead of getting paid, you can end up losing hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars

Not So “Free” Trial Offers – Misleading free trial offers online for diet supplements, penny auctions and money making schemes blanket the internet resulting in thousands of complaints ever year. The free trial offers seem no-risk but complainants state they were repeatedly billed every month and found it extremely difficult to cancel.

Checks in the Mail Spoof – Scammers with the ability to create very real-looking counterfeit checks fooled recipients into believing checks are legitimate. When checks arrived in the consumers’ name, many took them to the bank for deposit only to find out they now owed the cash instead of actually receiving it. BBB issued alerts to avoid being taken by the surprise cash from unknown sources. Sizable checks stating you have been left money, won a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a mystery shopper – but had to pay any type of fee - scammed thousands.

Debt Relief and Settlement Services – BBB warned consumers in 2010 to seriously consider third-party assistance for getting out of debt. Relief and settlement companies often require upfront fees and potentially leave the consumer drowning in even more debt. Complaints to BBB about debt relief and settlement services increased by approximately 30 percent in 2010 across the country, according to year-end estimates.

Door-to-Door Home Repair/Roofers – BBB received complaints from consumers who answered a knock from a door to door salesman or itinerant worker who eventually failed to deliver on promises to do home repair, fix their roof or conduct other work to the home. Complaints to BBB about roofing companies across the country increased by roughly 40 percent in 2010, according to tentative estimates, due in part to one company that solicited door to door nationwide, American Shingle, which received nearly 1,000 complaints after going bankrupt and not providing new roofs to angry customers.

Identity Theft – There are any number of ways a person can become a victim of identity theft. Through low-tech theft, phishing emails, vishing phone calls, smishing text messages, or even through no fault of your own as the result of a corporate data breach, millions fall victim to identity theft every year.

Advance Fee Loan Scams – A perennial problem, advance fee loan scams prey on consumers and business owners who are struggling financially. Victims are told they qualify for large loans but must pay upfront fees—often more than a thousand dollars. The victim wires money to the scammers, but never receives the loan.

Over-Payment Scams - Over-payment scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent and sellers on classifieds or sites like Craigslist. The scammers overpay the amount for the services or products and then ask the victim to wire the extra amount back to them or to another fraudulent entity. Ultimately though, the check is forged and the victim is out the money wired back to the scammers.

Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams – The victim—often a senior citizen - receives a letter in the mail or phone call from someone pretending to be with Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery. The scammer claims that the victim has won millions but must first wire hundreds or even thousands of dollars back to the scammers to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.

Consumers or small business owners victimized by a scam can contact their local BBB or file a complaint at bbb.org . BBB advised to always research a business with BBB before doing business, sign any contracts or hand over any money.