ROANOKE, Va. - In a nationwide Better Business Bureau report released this week, employment scams top the list of the most damaging scams, followed by online purchase and check or money order scams.
The ranking comes from an algorithm that takes into account exposure, susceptibility and money lost.
An old scam is coming back. Thieves are again finding success by pretending to be companies looking to hire. There were more victims and more lost money last year than in 2017.
Often, these scams arrive over email, online ads or social media. Scammers can direct victims to a fake website or a phone number to try to collect personal information or they can ask for payment up front -- like for equipment or clothing required for the job.
Amazon was one of the most often impersonated companies, in part because of the new jobs planned for northern Virginia.
“They do make it sound like it's coming from legitimate, big companies,” Better Business Bureau President Julie Wheeler said. “Amazon was picked on pretty heavily in 2018 because they were so in the news because of their new headquarters.”
People can protect themselves by looking up the company online themselves instead of following links, or they can find a valid phone number online and call to ask about the position, according to Wheeler.
The number of online purchase scams has increased.
They were the second most common scam nationally and fourth locally last year, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The number of people losing money has increased, but the amount of money they’re losing has decreased. In other words, more people are falling victim, but they’re losing smaller amounts of money than in previous years.
“What does that say? Maybe we're only risking sites we don't know to make smaller purchases, and bigger stuff we're not doing, the big electronic stuff, except from well-known-type sites,” Wheeler said.
Puppy scams are one common example. Scammers use pictures from other websites and get victims to make deposits for hard-to-find breeds.
There have been many cases of scammers using local addresses on their websites and the people living there are not involved.
“They've said, 'Yeah, I've had people knocking on my door asking about puppies and I don't know what they're talking about.’ They just pull the address out of the air. It's just crazy stuff,” Wheeler said.
Scammers also pretend to sell certain electronics that can be hard to find and post fake deals on expensive items, like sunglasses and leather products.
Locally, IRS scams still top the list of scams in our region of Virginia, followed by scams involving collections and phishing.
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