It was a mix of the old and the new Wednesday as the Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau released its list of 2009’s Top 10 Scams and Ripoffs. The list includes both local and national activity.
“While fraudulent checks, wire-transfer scams and vague free-trial offers continue to wreak havoc in the marketplace, other circumstances in 2009 made way for new schemes and unethical activity,” the BBB said in a news release. The bureau cited such events as Colorado’s storms, the H1N1 virus and the struggling economy as new areas for scammers.
Dale Mingilton, president/CEO of the BBB, cautions consumers to:
• “Think before you write a check or give a credit card number,” he said. “It’s your hard-earned dollars going out.
• “Verify who you’re giving your check or credit card number to.
• “Before you do something — especially if it’s major dollars — get multiple bids, to ensure that you’re getting a fair price. And read the contract. Most people won’t read a contract. They think they know what it says, and miss some key points.”
The Denver/Boulder bureau, through November, took the most complaints in 2009 about television (cable, CATV and satellite), followed by telephone communications, computer training, cellular telephone services, magazine sales by mail, Internet shopping, auto dealers (new cars), property management, magazine subscriptions agents (in person) and collection agencies.
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Here’s the top 10 list that combines local and national:
(1) Storm chasers — “Due to the historic storms Colorado saw in the summer of 2009, countless unscrupulous contractors swarmed into the state to take advantage of damaged property owners,” the BBB said. Inflated costs and high-pressure sales were among the problems.
(2) Free-trial offers for dietary supplement pills. “Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the ‘free’ trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month, and that they had trouble canceling and getting refunds,” the BBB said.
(3) Mystery shopping — People are asked to shop a few stores “and also wire money back to the scammers in order to evaluate a money-wiring service such as Western Union or MoneyGram.” They receive a fake check in return.
(4) Lottery scams — The victim gets a fake letter telling them they’ve won millions, but first must send back hundreds of dollars to cover taxes or a bogus fee.
(5) Friend/family in distress — “The victim receives a call or even a message on Facebook from a friend or family member claiming that they are outside of the country and have gotten into trouble. The victim is asked to wire thousands of dollars to pay for lawyer’s fees or to post bail,” the BBB said.
(6) Mortgage foreclosure rescue/debt assistance — Victims pay hundreds of dollars for assistance they never receive.
(7) Phishing emails/H1N1 spam — Phishing email tries to trick the recipient into revealing financial information or infects their computer with viruses and malware. Spam emails selling products to prevent the H1N1 virus also were big in 2009.
(8) Job-hunter scams — They include offers to find jobs for a large upfront fee, attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or Social Security numbers, and requiring fee payment to be considered for a job.
(9) Memorabilia — Many items were sold at inflated prices, and had only sentimental value or no value at all.
(10) Robocalls — Calls included ones stating your auto warranty was about to expire, or offering help in reducing the interest rate on your credit card.