Consumers should keep their guard up against scams all year long. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says scammers tend to step up their game during the holidays when people are more active online and making contributions to charity.
The FTC has published a ranked list of the most common scams in the third quarter, based on complaints lodged with the agency. It says it expects scammers to continue to push these schemes on unsuspecting consumers throughout the holidays.
The top 10 scams are:
Online shopping and negative reviews
Business and job opportunities
Telephone and mobile services
Travel, vacations, and timeshare scams
Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries
Foreign money offers and fake check scams
There is a wide range of imposter scams, with thieves pretending to be government agencies or large corporations. Twenty percent of the people reporting the scam to the FTC said they suffered a financial loss averaging $1,000.
But it is investment scams that appear to be the most dangerous. In the third quarter, 69% of people reporting this scam said they lost money. The average loss was more than $5,000.
Online shopping and negative reviews involved everything from undisclosed costs to failure to deliver a purchased item. That scam resulted in a financial loss for 48% of those who reported it, with the average loss less than $200.
Business and job opportunities resulted in a financial loss for 29% of those who reported the scam. The average loss was $2,000.
Consumers can protect themselves by knowing the most common red flags that are part of almost every scam. The first is an unexpected and unsolicited contact.
Another common tip-off is the method of payment. Scammers usually want to receive money in ways that are untraceable and irretrievable. Those methods include Moneygrams and gift cards. Whenever anyone asks for that method of payment it’s almost always a scam.