When it comes to tracking scams, Better Business Bureau Public Relations Director Bryan Oglesby suggested a simple yet effective strategy.
“The best defense against scams is making consumers aware of them,” said Oglesby.
The Scam Tracker
The Scam Tracker is a free interactive tool online that gives consumers a place to report scams and fraud. The tool also allows consumers to warn others of malicious or suspicious activities at a grass roots level.
"These are consumers in your community letting you know that a scam has happened," Oglesby said, pointing to red dots on the BBB's Scam Tracker website.
According to Scam Tracker data, there were more than 700 scams in Florida alone in 2016 — everything from email phishing to tax collection, travel scams, and on and on.
"Scam artists are good," Oglesby said. "They know how to reach out to consumers. Tell them what they want to hear and really encourage them to do things they normally wouldn't do."
Users can search using a variety of filters to see what scams are happening in their area, track a particular type of scam, or even see how much money has been lost.
The BBB collects the data and also shares it with law enforcement agencies for use in identifying and prosecuting scammers.
Millennials at Greater Risk
According to a BBB study, contrary to popular perception, it's not mainly the elderly or uneducated who are victims of scams. We're all at risk and, it turns out, millennials are the most common victims.
"Millennials are most vulnerable, because they suffer from optimism bias. They don't think it's gonna happen to them," Oglesby said.
We asked a millennial, 24-year-old Dillion Wostbrock, if he would be surprised to learn that members of his generation are actually the most common victims of scams. His response: "Yeah, I would be."
It's true. The BBB survey shows:
- 69 percent of victims are under 45
- 78 percent hold college or graduate degrees
Another finding by the BBB: Men are actually more susceptible to scams than women.
Most Popular Scams
"Scammers are looking for ways to steal your money year round," an IRS spokesperson said in an IRS produced video.
IRS tax scams are among the most common. That’s were scammers call you and claim to be with the IRS. They say you owe money and demand you pay now.
They claim that if you don’t you will be arrested or have legal action filed against you.
Oglesby says don’t fall for it.
“(The IRS) not going to use high pressure tactics. They’re not going to force you to pay now,” he said.
Another red flag is the method an individual tells you to use to pay them.
“If they’re asking you to pay via wire transfer or money card, to go to your local Walgreens, right now, get a money card, pay us over the phone, give us those numbers. Those are red flags,” Oglebsy said.
Other popular scams include:
- Employment scams: where you’re asked to buy supplies for a job upfront.
- Check scams: where you’re told you were overpaid and need to return funds
- Home improvement scams: where you’re approached, often after a disaster to have work done
Be On Guard
Scammers like to prey on people when they’re at their most vulnerable.
“When there’s a natural disaster or something happening in the news media, scammers see that as an opportunity to take advantage of their victims,” Oglesby explained.
Remember: Don't think it can't happen to you. The most important step to protect yourself against a scam is realizing we're all vulnerable.
For ten steps on how to avoid scams, click here.