FTC: Impostor Scams Surpass ID Theft (but Debt Collection Remains Top Complaint)

More Americans last year complained about scammers playing an identity — most often, that of an IRS or other government official — than stealing theirs. In its 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, released last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said impostor scams surpassed identity theft for the first time, becoming the second most common category of consumer complaints. Debt collection remained the top consumer gripe, generating 859,090 complaints (28 percent of the total) — more than the combined …

Puppy Scams Return!

How much is that doggy on the computer screen? With a recent resurgence in the longtime Puppy Scam, it’s costing some pet-seekers thousands of dollars and heaps in heartbreak. That’s because they fall for an adorable pup pictured online — on Craigslist, Facebook or a website supposedly for a reputable breeder — that’s advertised “for sale,” adoptable for free to a loving home, or in response to their own “wanted” posts seeking a pet. Problem is, there is no animal. …

Shelter From the Sneakiest Real Estate Scams

Scams are a reality of real estate. Whether buying, selling or renting property, here’s what to know about some of the sneakiest schemes: Closing cons It starts with hacking the email accounts of real estate agents to steal details about clients and closing dates, often by tricking agents into clicking malware-infected links supposedly sent by a potential client. Scammers then follow with phone calls or other emails — posing as that agent, a title company, real estate attorney or the …

The Real Costs of Free-Cruise Scams

If a Caribbean cruise sounds tempting right about now, there’s an even more seductive lure: a “free” cruise. But before responding to winter-timed TV commercials, mailed postcards or unsolicited phone calls, consider the real costs of a “freebie” two-night Bahamas getaway, for example, pitched as a “special promotion” or “prize” for which you’re already eligible.   Your money. To reserve your cruise (or even to get information about it), you’re asked for your credit card information and immediately billed up …

Do’s and Don’ts to Prevent Romance Scams

True love may be priceless, but searching for it can cost dearly. Among the top-grossing swindles worldwide, romance scams netted fraudsters nearly $2 billion in 2016 (roughly the same amount generated by legitimate dating websites) and a new victim every 48 seconds. The most pursued and prized target: American women over 40 — usually divorced, widowed and/or disabled — who are looking for love or companionship online. Typically working from boiler rooms in Africa or Russia (though some are independent), …

New Utility Impostor Scams

No disrespect to Punxsutawney Phil, but here’s a more realistic winter forecast: When it’s cold outside, utility company impostors turn up the heat — angling for your money. The biggest scam is the longtime shutoff swindle, which is reaching record levels this season in some parts of the country. Posing as local utility company personnel, fraudsters call homeowners and small-business owners, claiming that their gas or electric account is delinquent and that service will be shut off within hours if …