The Top 10 Internet Scams of 2008 and 2009

Scambusters.org’s Annual List of the Top 10 Internet Scams of 2008 and Predictions for 2009: Internet Scambusters #314

In our annual review of the Top 10 Internet scams, we explore the outturn for 2008 compared with our forecasts for the year. Hint: We came pretty close!

And as always, we make our predictions for 2009, with identity theft expected to stay in the #1 slot.

The downturn in the economy, which has certainly made itself felt in 2008, is expected to have even more serious repercussions in 2009, as our chart for the Top 10 Internet scams next year shows.

We also analyze the current trends and explain the most important things you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

However, before we begin, we encourage you to take a look at this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:

Is Holiday Shopping Putting You at Risk of Identity Theft? Ways you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft this holiday season.

Keeping Your Budget, Sanity and Safety Intact During the Holiday Shopping Season: Tips to get you through all the holiday shopping madness without injury to your body, mind or budget.

Holiday articles:

The Hottest Christmas Decorations of 2008: Find out how Christmas decorations have changed since last year.

Snow Globe Christmas Ornament Ideas: Snow globe ornaments you can make with your kids or just as a fun adult project.

Let’s get started…


The Top 10 Internet Scams of 2008 and 2009


When we predicted our list of the Top 10 Internet scams of 2008, we left our final #10 slot open for what we confidently said would be a “new category.” Without wishing to sound boastful, that turned out to be a perceptive move.

Looking back now, it’s no surprise, given the turn of events. However, we’re sad to report it all the same: a whole collection of scams relating to our weakening economy burst in in position #10.

As you’ll see later, this new category of scams is predicted to significantly zip up the 2009 charts. As more and more of us struggle with the effects of the downturn, so the scammers seize the chance to beat us with tricks that promise to make all our troubles go away.

How Did We Do in Predicting the Top Scams for 2008?

In fact, our predictions for 2008 hit the mark quite accurately.

We base our results — and forecasts — on the feedback we get from the millions of Scambusters subscribers and visitors, official surveys and on the regular news reports we summarize in our Scamlines series.

This is not a scientific analysis. However, together, we believe these are a fairly accurate barometer of what’s happening in the world of scamming and, by taking note, our lists hopefully will help our worldwide subscribers to cut the risk of being tricked.

You may want to take a quick look back at the Top 10 Internet scams article we published this time last year that includes our predictions for 2008.

Here Are The Results for 2008:

10. Economy-related scams. This is the ‘new category’ we predicted and takes in a range of con tricks perpetrated over the Internet, by phone and mail. It includes bogus fix-your-credit-rating offers, foreclosure scams and phony advance fee business loans.

9. Pump and dump share-tip scams (Predicted as #9).

8. Online dating scams (Predicted as #8).

7. Spyware threats (Predicted as #7).

6. Overpayment scams (Predicted as #6).

5. Viruses, worms and Trojans (Predicted as #5)

3. (tied) Lottery scams (Predicted as #3). Tied with Nigerian scams.

3. (tied) Nigerian scams (Predicted as #4). We suggested there would be lots of new twists to the Nigerian scams and we were right, as shown by our special article in issue #309.

2. Phishing scams (Predicted as #2).

1. Identity theft scams (Predicted as #1).

It’s no surprise that identity theft scams occupy the #1 slot as they always have, and they probably will continue to do so well into the future. This crime is way ahead of the other categories, both in terms of actual numbers and the heavy cost to individual victims and business, which now runs into many billions of dollars every year.

Phishing scams are still way up there too but one encouraging sign of the past year has been a greater awareness of this (thanks, in a very small part to Scambusters!) and the inclusion of phishing spotters in many of the main Internet security packages.

And because the two scams are closely connected — identity theft is often the inevitable consequence of successful phishing — we’re going to combine these into a single category for our 2009 predictions.

We also expect to see yet more variations of the Nigerian scams, which as we reported in Scamlines just a couple of weeks ago, robbed a single victim of $400,000 with the lure of a promised (but non-existent) fortune of $26 million.

Changes for 2009

We’re making some changes to the way we compile our 2009 list. Many of the scams we regularly report are perpetrated not just on the Internet but over the phone and even face-to-face.

In view of this blurring of the lines between how these crimes are carried out, we’ve introduced some new categories into our predictions. So, although our list of Top 10 scams for 2009 still focuses on Internet scams, you should continue to be on the alert for them to be delivered by these other routes too.

Predictions for the Top 10 Internet Scams of 2009

10. Travel and vacation scams. Travel scams have always been around. But this year we expect to see more Internet-based ruses like bogus offers of cheap airfare and event tickets. The huge Olympic Games Internet tickets scam of 2008 was just the start.

9. Phony auction and classified sales. Yes, eBay, Craigslist, etc. scammers continue to reel in the victims. Despite attempts by the sites themselves to clamp down on the con artists, we expect the tricksters to re-double their deception efforts.

8. Investment and pump and dump scams. We’ve broadened this category after reporting on a number of failed or phony investment schemes that have cost victims tens of millions of dollars.

7. Work at home and job scams. With unemployment on the rise and the growing popularity of working from home, we think this scam will become more prevalent in 2009.

6. Grandparent, family tragedy and death threat scams. These are extremely common scams where people ask for money by claiming a relative is in trouble or that a murder contract has been taken out. Mostly, they come by phone but increasingly are seen in emails.

5. Viruses and spyware.

4. Nigerian scams, again with lots more new twists.

3. Lottery scams. You’ve won! New ones are appearing from Canada, the Caribbean, inside the US and from the Far East.

2. Economy related scams. We predict huge growth in loan- and credit-related scams, but foreclosure scams may ease slightly as pressure eases on banks. We’ll see.

1. Identity theft and phishing. Despite tougher counter-measures, this scam is still way too easy for the criminals.

Because of what’s happening in the economy right now, we expect to see a significant rise in scams in all the above categories, with many clever variations on even the most well-worn tricks.

Over the past 14 years, since Scambusters began keeping subscribers up to date with those tricks, we’ve seen a sharp shift from small-time crooks conning individuals to organized crime, scamming whole sections of the population on a large scale.

Seniors have been particular targets because they’re either more trusting or are more easily confused and misled.

Fortunately, the fight back is equally determined. Yes, it often feels like a drop in the bucket. But who knows what the scale of these despicable crimes would be without this counter-effort.

What to Do…

That’s why we call on all our subscribers not only to follow our reports closely but also to do two other vital things:

– Look out for those who are most at risk. If you have friends and relatives in this category, try to keep tabs on their activities and never lose an opportunity to warn them of the dangers.

– Pass on the word about Scambusters to the people you care about. Tell them where to find us on the Internet and invite them to join our mailing list.

The more we can help each other, the more we hamper the scammers. It’s going to be tough but let’s try to make 2009 the year we turn the tide!

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!