The Better Business Bureau has an online tool “Scam Tracker” that collects and presents scam data in a searchable online “heat map,” showing users the number and types of scams and hoaxes being reported in their communities.
It is sophisticated enough to track that information down to the zip code. The data is derived from reports provided by consumers and businesses.
Using that information, the BBB develops it’s annual “Scam Tracker Risk Report”, an in-depth look at how scams are perpetrated, who is being targeted, which scams have the greatest impact and how scams affect different age groups.
The report was released last week. It showed online shopping scams top the list of scams that pose the most significant risk to consumers, impacting the most age groups.
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The new findings highlight scammers’ latest ploys to steal money, identity and marketplace confidence from consumers. This knowledge will be the public’s most effective weapon in the fight against fraud.
Among all age groups, online purchase scams were the riskiest type of scam for the second year in a row, as people continue to adjust to life in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online scams were more likely to result in a reported monetary loss than scams committed in person or via phone. Nearly three-quarters (74.9%) of the people who reported an online shopping scam lost money.
The report shows that scammers expanded their use of cryptocurrency to perpetrate fraud. Cryptocurrency scams rose to the second riskiest scam type for ages 25-64.
Payment made via cryptocurrency resulted in a more than double monetary loss from 2020. The average reported median dollar loss for cryptocurrency scams was $1,200, much higher than the overall median dollar loss of $169 for all scam types.
Following online scams as the riskiest are employment, home improvement, and investment scams. The Risk Report also reveals credit cards remained the highest reported payment method where money was lost, followed by online payment systems.
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In addition to cryptocurrency, the payment methods with the highest median dollar loss were wire transfer ($1,450), check ($900), and prepaid debit card ($700).
Younger ages reported more instances of losing money via online payment system, bank account debit, and cryptocurrency. In contrast, older adults reported more instances of losing money via prepaid cards, credit card, and check.
“Impersonation” is one of the most common tactics fraudsters use to perpetrate scams. Scammers have more success with their targets by pretending to be well-known and trusted companies, government agencies or organizations.
In 2021, Amazon became the most impersonated organization reported to BBB Scam Tracker, with twice the number of reports as the second-most impersonated brand, the Social Security Administration.
Publishers’ Clearinghouse ranks third, followed by PayPal, fourth. Facebook rose to 10th. Among other Risk Report findings, employment scams ranked second riskiest for ages 18-24; and third riskiest for ages 25-44 and 55-64.
Foreign money exchange scams were the scam type with the highest monetary loss. Investment scams rose from #10 to #5 among all ages, and for the first time, came in at #3 for ages 18-24.
The number one goal of the Scam Tracker data base is to prevent others from falling prey to similar cons. So if you have spotted a scam, whether or not you fell victim, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report helps expose scammer tactics and boost consumer awareness.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.