The Better Business Bureau's list of the top 10 scams of 2013, from the latest gimmicks to old schemes.
1. Top advertising scam: Advertising trolls
Consumers posting ads to free online listings like Craigslist to sell a vehicle are the target of unlicensed telemarketing companies. Companies often guarantee to sell vehicles quickly and promise a money-back guarantee, but the brokers rarely sell your vehicle, rarely provide refunds, and only post your own ad to other free online listings — charging you a $500 fee for things you probably could do yourself for free.
2. Top love scam: Online romance scams
Criminals often use social networking or dating websites to build relationships, sometimes spending several months in building a rapport online, before saying they are in a far away country and want to meet the victim in person — but can't afford to travel. The scammer will sometimes ask for financial help in caring for a sick family member. But the money wired by the victim, often in very large amounts, goes right into the hands of the criminal.
3. Top online scam: Internet investment fraud
Online financial fraudsters send e-mail spam, or approach victims on a social media website or in a web forum. An internet advertisement may also lead users to a website, designed to gather their personal information, which they will use to approach the victim directly or to steal their identity.
4. Top financial scam: Affinity fraud
When a scam artist targets a group of people who know each other, it is called an affinity fraud. The investment schemes they promote may change or vary over time, but the methods they use to target groups are often the same — scam artists earn the trust of an influential person in a group, family, or workplace, then use this connection to get their hands on the money of other people in the group.
5. Top sales scam: Curbers
Curbers, or unlicensed used-car "traffickers," often acquire junk cars and then sell them from parking lots or curbsides. They advertise through local newspapers and online ads. Later, the used car may turn out to have a liens against it, the VIN (vehicle identification number) number switched, or the odometer rolled back. In some cases, the car turns out to be stolen.
6. Top home improvement scam: Rogue door to door contractors
These types of offers include a deal to seal or repave your driveway, a roofer with left over material from a previous job, a furnace repair that you didn't schedule or a gas fireplace "inspection." These fraudulent "contractors" use high-pressure sales tactics and offers of a one-time deal to entice or frighten consumers into expensive and often unnecessary home repairs.
7. Top computer scam: Computer virus fixing scheme
Scammers often call to warn victims their computer has been infected with a virus and offer to clean it. But the scammer is really trying to gain remote access to the computer to steal credit card information. The scammer will say they need remote access to provide the supposed services, and will ask for computer passwords and related information. They will also ask for credit card information so they can bill for the supposed services.
8. Top youth scam: Twisted text prizes
Text messages inform victims they've won a major retailer's gift card and just need to go to a website and enter a PIN to claim the card. After entering the PIN and an email address, the victim is taken to a form and asked to fill out their name, cell number, mailing address and answer unrelated personal questions, like "Are you interested in going back to school?" and "Are you diabetic?" Instead of getting a gift card, the victim is directed to another site to apply for a credit card, which they never receive — it was all a ruse to get their personal information.
9. Top business scam: Pretender invoices
Scammers send an invoice or bill requesting payment for goods or services. The invoices might say the bill is past the due date and threaten that non-payment will affect the victim's credit rating. The invoices are fake and are for goods or services never ordered or received. The scammer hopes the victim doesn't notice and pays the invoice.
10. Scam of the year: BBB fake complaint email
Hundreds of thousands of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from BBB. The subject line says something like "Complaint Against Your Business," and the instructions tell the recipient to either click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If the recipient does either, a malicious virus is launched on their computer — a virus that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information needed for cyber-theft.
BBB is working with security consultants and federal law enforcement to track down the source of these emails, and has already shut down dozens of hijacked websites. Anyone who has opened an attachment or clicked on a link should run a complete system scan using reputable anti-virus software. If your computer is networked with others, all machines on the network should be scanned, as well.