Garet Smitherman with the Better Business Bureau joined us with a look at Alabama's Top Scams of 2017 and how to protect yourself in 2018. 769 Alabamians reported scams to Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker in 2017. The most commonly reported scams were online purchase scams, debt collection scams and employment scams. Most Common Scams:
- Online Purchase Scams – 74 Alabamians reported identifying online purchase scams last year. 49 of the 74 reported losing money in online purchase scams in 2017, and the average dollar amount loss per Alabamian was $533.00. Many Alabamians reported buying from websites that advertised lower than average prices on puppies, sports gear or cell phone accessories, but never delivered the goods. Almost all of them regretted not reading business reviews before deciding to make their purchases.
- Debt Collection Scams – 53 Alabamians identified debt collection scams last year. Victims reported being called by someone claiming to work for a loan company, law firm or government agency, attempting to collect an overdue payment. When the victim replied that they don't owe money, the "debt collector" responded with threats of having them sued, having their wages garnished, or having them arrested. These types of scammers harass their victims for weeks or even months, both at home and at work, trying to get them to pay debts they don't even owe.
- Employment Scams – 46 Alabamians identified employment scams last year. Many of the employment scams start by a fake company reaching out to victims via email or using a job posting site. Many of the victims will go on to work for the company, and when it comes time to collect their first paycheck, they either never receive it, or they get overpaid and are asked to wire back the difference via MoneyGram or western union. Once the victim sends back the difference, the original check bounces and the victim is out any money spent.
Tips for a Scam-Free 2018:
- Do your research. Read and compare reviews from bbb.org and other websites before handing over your sensitive information.
- Know who is calling. Do not agree to anything over the phone without researching the person on the other line first. Remember that you cannot win a contest or sweepstakes you did not enter. Chances are you do not owe money to the IRS and no one is going to arrest you if you hang up. Threats or fast-talking sales callers should be red-flags to you that there is something sketchy about the business or charity.
- Be wary of overpayments. If a company or individual overpays you for an item or a service and then asks you to wire back the difference, there is a strong possibility the check will bounce, and you will be out the money you wired and anything else you spent from the check.