Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scams Only Get Worse in Bad Times

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scams Only Get Worse in Bad Times

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

The Better Business Bureau's Top 10 rip-offs of 2010 shows just how shameless and deceptive scammers can be.

They'll promise to help people find work and get out of debt. They'll promise to do home repairs, offer "free" trial offers for online products, and peddle bogus loans. They'll promise sweepstakes winnings and help selling timeshares.

The Top 10 list, based on national complaints, mirrors the kind of calls fielded locally by the Better Business Bureau in Jacksonville.

One lesson to be drawn from the list is if someone you don't know asks you to wire money, it's a scam.

Another lesson is to beware of businesses that require payment of up-front fees in exchange for big promises of payoffs in the future.

And always be on guard against giving out confidential information about your financial accounts.

One rip-off scheme on the Top 10 list took advantage of job-hunters. Scammers told them they had to pay an up-front fee to be considered for a job, or had to disclose personal information - bank accounts, Social Security numbers - to be considered for a job.

Another scam involved work-at-home opportunities. Typically, the offers would come with a requirement for paying fees in advance for supplies or training materials. According to the Better Business Bureau, one work-at-home offer was a job to fence stolen goods. After the scammers get the up-front payments, they move on to other victims.

Financial struggles relate to three other scams on the Top 10 list.

The Better Business Bureau says complaints about debt relief companies surged by 30 percent last year. Such companies often required up-front fees to help consumers work out plans to pay down or settle debt, but consumers ended up owing more money at the end of the day, the bureau said. The Federal Trade Commission sought to crack down on those companies last year by putting limits on up-front fees.

"There are going to be a lot of debt settlement and debt management companies that go out of business because of that, and good riddance," said Tom Stephens, head of the Better Business Bureau office in Jacksonville.

Complaints about the timeshare industry soared by 40 percent. Companies advertising timeshare resale services were a big driver in the complaints. Those companies would contact timeshare owners and tell them they had a buyer lined up. Owners anxious to sell in a tough real estate market then paid fees to the timeshare reseller but the buyer never materialized.

Stephens said there are legitimate timeshare resale companies so it's important to research the companies being considered. He said the Jacksonville office hasn't fielded many complaints about timeshare properties in Northeast Florida, but the complaints are more frequent in the Savannah, Ga. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.