The Better Business Bureau is out with its first-ever ranking of the five most common scams in the U-S and Canada: Home improvement scams, fake checks and money orders, employment scams, on-line purchase scams, and advance-fee loan scams. B-B-B Minnesota and North Dakota spokesman Dan Hendrickson says there were some big surprises in the report. He says, “Men were more vulnerable than women in seven of the top ten scam categories, meaning more men fell victim than women, and another surprise was younger consumers are more likely to fall victim to scams, however they lose less money.” Hendrickson says while seniors generally fall for scams less often than younger people, they usually have more savings and therefore lose more money on average.
Hendrickson says the biggest take-away from the report is that no one is immune from risks posed by scams. He says, “Anyone who wakes up and thinks, well, it could never happen to me, I’m a smart consumer, all this sort of thing — that may well be true, but the fact of it is, our studies have shown that pretty much everyone is equally at risk of falling victim to a scam.”
More info in the BBB news release:
Arlington, VA (March 6, 2017) – There is no doubt that scams have gone high tech, but the riskiest scam is the face-to-face home improvement scam, with fake check scams running a close second, according to the new BBB Risk Index, a sophisticated analysis that goes beyond volume to look at the risk each scam type poses. The BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute) kicked off National Consumer Protection Week (U.S.) and Fraud Awareness Month (Canada) with its inaugural BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, which provides comprehensive insight into scams based on the more than 32,000 reports made to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016.
As with earlier BBB Institute research, there were some real surprises within the data: men were more vulnerable than women in seven of the top ten scam categories; and consumers 18-24 are the most likely to lose money to a scam. New information uncovered in this analysis is that younger consumers have a lower median loss than people in their top earning years, partly because the types of scams aimed at older consumers tend to have higher median losses. While seniors also tend to lose more money than Millennials when they are scammed, they fall for scams far less often. And the biggest takeaway is that no one is immune from the risk posed by scams.
The BBB Risk Index measures risk along three dimensions:
- Exposure (how likely are you to be exposed to the con?)
- Susceptibility (if you are exposed, how likely are you to lose money?) and
- Monetary loss (if you do lose money, how much is it likely to be?).
Exposure X Susceptibility X Monetary Loss = Risk Index
Based on the BBB Risk Index, the riskiest top five scams overall (U.S. and Canada combined) are:
- Home improvement scams (bbb.org/homescam)
- Fake checks and money orders (bbb.org/fakecheckscam)
- Employment scams (bbb.org/employmentscam)
- Online purchase scams (bbb.org/webpurchasescam)
- Advance fee loan scams (bbb.org/loanscam)
[Download the full report at bbb.org/RiskReport]
The BBB Risk Index is a paradigm shift in how to calculate the true impact of different scams. In the past, virtually all involved organizations used volume alone to create “top scam” lists, but this approach ignored two other equally critical factors: the susceptibility of the population and dollar losses. For instance, the scam most reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016 – by far – was the tax scam. However, consumers are savvy to this con and rarely
fall for it, so it did not even make the BBB Risk Index’s top ten. Employment scams were three times as risky for consumers as tax scams, and ranked #3 on the BBB Risk Index.
“Scams erode trust in the marketplace, and BBB Scam Tracker was created to advance BBB’s mission by protecting consumers and ethical businesses,” notes Genie Barton, president of the BBB Institute. “Scammers damage the reputations of the well-respected brands they spoof, and they slow commercial growth by making consumers hesitant to do business online. Every dollar stolen by a scammer is a dollar not spent with a reputable business that has competed fairly to earn those dollars.”
Home improvement scams, ranked #1 on the BBB Risk Index, was the only category in the top ten to rely on in-person contact. Because of the highly personal nature of this scam – someone literally at your doorstep – the exposure rate was low but the susceptibility rate and the median loss were both very high, making it the riskiest scam of all.
Fake check scams (bbb.org/fakecheckscam) take on a variety of approaches, but all rely on the fact that consumers assume that when a check “clears” their account and funds are made available, they are in the clear to spend those funds. In fact, it may take several weeks for a fake check to be detected and returned, and that includes cashier’s checks and money orders. The BBB Institute also notes that fake checks are used in about 30-40% of employment scams, and appear frequently in other scams, as well. Whenever a consumer is asked to deposit a check and then send funds back out for any reason, that’s a big red flag, according to BBB.