Top scams going after young and old victims

Terene Chatfield,  Director of Administrative Solutions, for the Better Business Bureau, shows the BBB Scam Tracker. Each dot displays the number of scams that have happened in that area. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Terene Chatfield, Director of Administrative Solutions, for the Better Business Bureau, shows the BBB Scam Tracker. Each dot displays the number of scams that have happened in that area. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Scammers are becoming more sophisticated with their techniques to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting victims.

In 2021, fake online purchases, phishing for personal information and fake sweepstakes and lotteries were the most common scams local residents faced, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“And it really varies who the targets are, the young get targeted as well as the older generations so there is no one any less suspectable than others,” said Sheri Sword, a BBB spokeswoman.

Just last year, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost warned people against scammers and robocallers posing as retailers and major companies.

Scammers may call posing as Amazon, Apple, PayPal or another retailer claiming they want to help after large purchase was made to your credit card.

“Legitimate companies don’t do business this way, so just hang up,” Yost said. “These impostors want to get you on the line and cause panic so you cough up personal information. My hope is that you will answer by ending the call.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission one in three people who reported a business impersonator from July 2020 through June 2021 said the scammers claimed to be from Amazon. Of the 273,000 who reported business impersonators, 35% were posing as Amazon and 6% claimed to be Apple.

The scammers claim there’s suspicious activity or unauthorized purchases on your account. Once you call the number, a person claiming to be a representative will try to convince you into giving them remote access to your phone or computer to fix the problem and issued a refund. Scammers will then claim to have refunded too much money and tell you to return the difference. Some scam victims reported people posing as Amazon workers begged them for help and claimed Amazon would fire them if the money wasn’t returned, according to the FTC.

In other scams, the impersonators will gain access to your online banking and move money from one account to another to trick the victim into thinking it’s a refund. Sometimes scammers will ask you to buy gift cards and send pictures of the numbers on the back or claim you won a raffle and you need to provide your credit card information to pay for shipping.

Sword said scammers come from across the globe -- including inside the United States -- and it’s important that people take precautions now. For instance, people should check their credit report at least once a year to make sure information on there are things they have done and not a scammer, Sword said, and bank statements should also be checked regularly.

“You should also make sure that your computer is up to date and you have the most up-to-date firewalls and antivirus software to make it harder for those scammers to be able to get onto your systems,” Sword said.

Shopping online has become more common and scammers have started imitating websites as a way to trick people into providing information.

“Make sure to do your research online, don’t just make an impulse buy, take time and check it out,” she said. “Make sure to do research before you spend your money. Don’t believe it just because you see it on the internet. Scammers are good at making their websites look real.”

Other common scams locals faced in 2021 were fake employment opportunities, government grant scams, phony tech support, fake debt collection calls, counterfeit products, fake checks and money order scams and scams related to COVID-19.

“People are getting a message from a friend, allegedly, saying ‘Hey how are you doing, have you heard about the good news about this grant you can get to help with your COVID expenses?” Sword said.

Sword said these offers are usually fake and people need to pay careful attention to where they are buying COVID-19 testing kits as well and ensure they are from a reputable seller.

Sword said someone asking to be paid with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer should be a red flag because the money is not trackable. She said scammers prey on people who are going through difficult times who might be susceptible to unrealistic offers that can help them but people need to be cautious.

“The bottom line is if it sounds too good to be true, it is,” she said.

Adults age 18 to 24 reported the highest median losses ($150) and the highest likelihood of loss (56.6%) to BBB Scam TrackerSM in 2020, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The younger age group started rising in the ranks of those scammed over the past several years, duped by a variety of ruses peddled via email, social media or websites, according to the Better Business Bureau of Dayton and Miami Valley.

“This (past) year, what really kicked it up was the pandemic and more and more people going online,” John North, BBB president and CEO, previously said. “What we know about that younger generation is that they are very comfortable online, they are very savvy online and they were practically born with a cellphone in their hand.”

That familiarity often means younger people putting down their guards when it comes to scams, believing that they may know a little bit more than most people when it comes to all things internet.

“They’re more trusting online, more likely to go online to make purchase, more likely online to do any kind of business,” North said. “So just the mere increase in online activity, their particular exposure to this technology, has made them more vulnerable.”

Most common scams in the Miami Valley

1) Online Purchases

2) Phishing

3) Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes

4) Employment

5) Government Grant

6) Tech Support

7) Debt Collections

8) Counterfeit Products

9) Fake Check/Money Order

10) Covid-19

Source: Better Business Bureau serving Dayton & the Miami Valley

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