Fake lotteries, grandparent con trick climb annual scams list: Internet Scambusters #524
A couple of surprises showed up in our annual top scams list
during 2012 but there were plenty of familiar con tricks there
While phishing and identity theft held on to their top slot,
lottery tricks and grandparent scams aimed at older folk were
the major movers.
Our forecast for 2013 suggests they’ll be strong contenders
again, while Internet sales scams will also become even more
prevalent, as we explain in this week’s issue.
But first, we urge you to take a look at these top articles
from our other websites:
Things All Teen Drivers Should Know: If your memory’s a bit rusty, take a look at this list for teenage drivers, and go over these things at the very least when you sit down to lecture him or her.
Are Bank Checks Long For This Earth? Read on to see if in our plastic-and-electronics era, paper bank checks are worth the time and effort you have to put into them.
Personalized Party Favors Your Guests Will Love: If you’re not familiar with the world of personalized party favors, get ready for your crash course introduction.
4 Low Fat Diet Myths You Need to Avoid: Learn about these 4 low-fat diet myths if you want to lead a long, healthy life.
And now for the main feature…
Top 10 Scams List for 2012 and 2013
With scams costing Americans, and consumers globally, billions
of dollars every year, we turn our attention to the annual
Scambusters Top Scams List.
Looking back on our Top 10 scams for 2012, we were pretty near
the mark, with just one important omission: the huge growth in
These comprise mainly tricksters posing as a relative or
employee in trouble, asking for money to be wired to help
As has become the trend, seniors, as grandparents, were the
key target for this crime.
They were also in the scammers’ line of fire for several other
con tricks, notably prize and lottery scams.
So, before we get on to our predictions for 2013, here’s a
quick rundown of the 2012 Top 10 scams, with our original
predictions in parentheses.
(One point to note: several categories overlap each other. For
instance, skimming — using devices to read debit and credit
card details — can also be a component of identity theft.
We’ve done our best to avoid “double counting.”)
10. Skimming and ATM theft, using devices (forecast as #5).
Although still a major crime, this category was swamped by
other scams — plus, as mentioned above, we moved some of
these incidents into the identify theft category.
9. “Hit-and-run” scams (#9). This is our “money for nothing”
category that includes bogus contractors and charity
collectors — people who take our money and are never seen
again. Disaster incidents, notably Hurricane Sandy, are
usually the focus for this crime, though the crooks can turn
up on any doorstep.
8. Economy-related scams (#8). Mainly loan modification
schemes, plus bogus job scams.
7. Investment scams (#7). Some new tricks appeared — we’ll be
taking a closer look at these within the next month.
6. Imposter/grandparent scams. As mentioned, not included in
our original forecast but now a major source of scams,
especially targeting older folk.
5. Nigerian and advance fee scams (#4). They’re still at it
but again we moved some of the incidents into other
Even so, we’re including a much wider range of scams than we
had in the past, including, for example, bogus online
romances, in which the victim is tricked into paying supposed
airfares and other “expenses” for their “date” to come meet them.
4. Lottery scams (#6). This made a stronger than expected
showing despite efforts to clamp down on crooks in Jamaica —
the main source of these scams.
Once again, seniors and other vulnerable groups were targeted,
often by phone and regular mail, rather than online.
3. Internet sales (#3). This category includes phony auctions,
Craigslist scams and bogus retail websites.
2. Malware (#2). According to one estimate, from security firm
Kindsight, one in every eight PCs is or has been infected.
Mostly, these take the form of bogus anti-virus alerts,
spyware and programs that corral machines into a hidden,
illicit network used for spamming.
1. Phishing and identity theft (#1). This crime reigns supreme
because it arises from many other scams, like skimming,
malware, and hit-and-run crimes.
It’s also a major technique for harvesting email addresses for
Bubbling under: We originally had vacation and travel scams as
#10. Although it was edged out, we still saw plenty of
evidence of this crime.
Also notable: Extortion threats were increasingly common.
These crimes ranged from untrue claims of kidnapping, to
crooks posing as law enforcement, accusing victims of some
sort of crime and demanding an instant “fine” payment.
Top 10 Scams List for 2013
Turning to 2013, we don’t expect any change in the top slot of
our chart but we do expect a stronger showing from
lottery/prize scams, with crooks becoming increasingly clever
at tricking victims.
Again, we’ll be taking a closer look at the latest lottery
scam tricks in a forthcoming issue.
We also think it’s possible that if the economy continues its
recovery struggle, we could see more crime in this category.
For now, here’s our prediction for the 2013 Top 10 scams list:
1. Phishing and identity theft — driven by the continuing
growth in social media usage and hacking incidents targeting
2. Lottery/sweepstakes/bogus prizes. This is the top source of
consumer complaints according to the National Consumer League.
Seniors are the main target, often refusing to accept they’re
being scammed. An aging population profile can only make this
3. Bogus Internet sales. Record levels of online shopping
during the holiday season show that this will continue to be
an attractive scam target.
4. Malware. We think this could fall back a couple of places
as users become more savvy and systems more secure. Even so,
it’ll still be a leading source of scams.
5. Hit-and-run. Crooks like this crime because it’s pretty
simple to put together a scam that preys on people’s emotions
and exploits their vulnerability.
It also seems to offer an endless variety of opportunities,
especially as disasters unfold.
6. Economy-related scams. Much depends on how/if the economy
recovers. If it doesn’t, we forecast these crimes will move up
a couple of places compared with 2012.
Mortgage and other loan modification schemes will likely be
the main culprits unless the economy worsens.
7. Imposter/grandparent scams. We’re hoping that increasing
publicity for these nasty tricks might push them down a notch
from 2012, but we still expect them to be a big problem.
8. Advance fee scams. These are related to many other types of
scams including spam arising from identity theft.
There seems to be an increase in the small-fee type of trick
— where victims are asked to pay perhaps $100 to receive a
package or refund of a large sum of money.
We’ve moved it down a couple of places because some of these
scams have now been included in other categories.
9. Investment scams. Expect low interest rates to continue to
tempt investors to fall for schemes offering higher returns.
Big fluctuations in the gold market, underpinned by worries
about the economy, will make this a key target for scams.
10. Dating/sweetheart scams. We decided to make this a
separate category because of the growth in online dating.
Increasing divorce rates from middle age onwards and the ease
of seeking a new partner via the Internet for older age groups
could make it a more significant source of scams. It’s an
That’s our crystal ball gazing for 2013.
It’s always possible, of course, that a new or unforeseen
crime will surge to the fore as we move through the year.
Count on Scambusters to add it to our scams list, and deliver
the breaking news along with the practical advice you need to
avoid becoming a victim.
Time to close today, but we’ll be back next week with another
issue. See you then!