The Better Business Bureau has released final 2018 statistics regarding scams in the United States. There were 47,567 scams added to the BBB Scam Tracker last year, up from 2017 total of 45,401 scams.
So, what can we look forward to this year? Already we’ve seen a number of new twists to old scams, as well as some fresh ones. Here are a few that are making the rounds now and are projected to hit in the future:
• Jackpotting: The Secret Service has warned banks that bad guys have found ways to exploit standalone ATM machines typically found in convenience stores, pharmacies and big box stores. The fraudsters install software or hardware on the ATMs that force machines to spit out large amounts of cash. According to the Secret Service, it is hard to know the actual impact of these crimes, but any time money is missing, you can be sure it will have an impact on the bank and ultimately you, most likely in the form of higher fees and more strenuous rules to access your cash.
• Instagram Fake Ads: It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake on the Internet, and Instagram is no exception. Scammers often post ads purporting to be for well-known products. When you click and buy, they instead send you a cheap knock-off. Instagram suggests if you think you or someone you know has encountered a suspicious ad, go to the accounts profile, tap menu, and choose “About This Account.” Information there will include the country where the account is located, the date they joined Instagram, accounts with shared followers and its user name changes.
• The Netflix Scam: This past Wednesday, the popular video streaming company, Netflix, announced that it was raising its subscription costs across the board. Recently scammers targeted Netflix with an email phishing scam that will probably be much more effective because of the rate hike. The phishing email’s subject line, “Payment declined,” grabs a subscriber’s attention immediately. In order to continue service, subscribers are directed to click on a link to update their credit card information. If you receive this email, don’t click on the link! It most likely contains malicious malware. Instead, go directly to Netflix.com, and sign into your account to verify.
• The Shimmer Scam: You may have heard of devices called “skimmers” that fraudsters attached to ATMs and gas pumps which were able to read credit card information. Well, thanks to new technology, thieves can now place a very thin piece of paper called a “shimmer” into an ATM or gas pump. Shimmers read and collect card numbers and access the new EMV security chips on each credit or debit card used in the machine. To protect yourself, look for signs of tampering, avoid outdoor ATMs and check your credit card statement regularly for unauthorized purchases.
• IRS Tax Arrest Scam: This is an old scam but is so effective and widespread we must continue to warn the public about it. Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS employee. The aggressive scammers claim victims owe back taxes to the IRS. If payment isn’t promptly made, the victim is threatened with arrest, being deported or having their driver’s license suspended. The IRS warns consumers that they never call to demand immediate payment over the phone, ask for credit card numbers or threaten to bring in local police.
As you can see, criminals are a creative and devious bunch, constantly coming up with new ways to victimize the unsuspecting and uninformed. If you feel you have been a target, report a scam to the proper government agency, the BBB, and your local police.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.