FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: DATE: JAN. 17, 2023 CONTACT: Heather Massey, Vice President of Communications (737) 205-2545 email@example.com BBB Media Office (737) 205-2545 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bryan-College Station-area consumers and businesses reported multiple scams to BBB, totaling nearly $35,000 lost for the year. Across Texas, BBB received an average of 250 scam reports per month totaling $1.9 million lost for the year. While the tactics of scammers often shift to take advantage of marketplace trends, online shopping, employment and phishing scams are the most common types of scams reported to BBB from Texas residents, accounting for 49% of all scams submitted to the organization for the year.
To help Bryan-College Station-area residents avoid scams in 2023, BBB analyzed scam reports submitted by consumers with local zip codes to determine the top five prevailing scams in 2022 and provides a few tips on how to avoid them moving into the new year.
Share of reports: 20%
Amount lost: $3,544
Online purchase scams in the Bryan-College Station area vary across a wide range of products, with some consumers losing over $1,000 on a single interaction. Online pet scams are particularly impactful in the area, with residents encountering fraudulent sellers when attempting to purchase either a dog or cat. In most cases, buyers are directed to send payment through an online payment system such as Zelle or PayPal. Other items residents attempted to purchase include floral arrangements, mini-fridges and furniture.
To avoid online purchase scams, BBB recommends:
• Avoid too-good-to-be-true deals.
• Use credit cards for online transactions.
• Look up reviews on other websites.
• Check and verify there are multiple methods of contact such as a working telephone number and a real physical address.
Share of reports: 14%
Amount lost: $500
Employment scams often impersonate well-known and reputable businesses when contacting their victims. While these scams do not often result in a loss of money, the sensitive information provided to a potential employer places the applicant at an increased risk of experiencing identity theft. Scammers often entice applicants for the position by offering high wages, flexible hours and remote working opportunities. They often claim they will pay for the applicant to purchase materials to set up their home office or other work-related expenses. In the Bryan-College Station area, most reports revolve around package reshipment, personal assistant or data entry positions for companies outside the state of Texas.
To avoid employment scams, BBB recommends:
• Beware of unsolicited or immediate job offers and rushed interview processes.
• Insist on communicating with the hiring manager outside of email or text.
• Verify the position is open by checking the official job board for the company.
• Do not deposit suspicious or overpaid checks, and do not send money back due to overpayment through gift cards, a wire transfer or other nontraditional methods.
Share of reports: 7%
Amount lost: $8,829
Recently, reports of sweepstakes, prize and lottery scams revolve around supposed winners of the Texas, national or other state’s lottery offering some of their winnings to strangers using ‘pay-it-forward’ messaging. To claim the winnings, the recipient is directed to a website where they input personal information so a check can be mailed to them. Other versions of this scam reported in the Bryan-College Station area include free products in exchange for taking a survey, as well as free travel packages. Victims who provide money do so under the impression they are paying for taxes, processing or other fees – something a legitimate sweepstakes company does not require.
To avoid sweepstakes, prize or lottery scams, BBB recommends:
• Do not provide any payment for a supposedly ‘free’ gift.
• Be especially wary of any emails from a lottery winner who is dividing their winnings across multiple people.
• It is uncommon to be selected as the winner of a sweepstakes that you did not enter. Verify how you were entered into the drawing and how they obtained your contact information.
• It is unlikely to be awarded a high-end or expensive item for taking a single survey. Trust your instincts and avoid too-good-to-be-true offers.
Fake Check/Money Order
Share of reports: 5%
Amount lost: $0
Fake checks or money orders is a common tactic in an overpayment scheme by a fraudulent employer, and recent reports to BBB also demonstrate a version of this scam targeting business owners. When used by a fraudulent employer, they will provide a new hire with a check that is substantially more money than what was agreed and claim that a clerical error was made. To make matters right, the excess money should be sent back through gift cards, cash or wire transfer. When the check is eventually detected as a fake by the victim’s bank, they have lost whatever amount of money they ‘returned’ to the employer. When this scam targets business owners, they are often provided with a check for contracting services and directed to use the money to pay other contractors working on a local project. The property owner claims to either live out of state or is otherwise unable to meet in person, and when the check is detected as a fake, the business is out however much money they paid to the additional contractors who are part of the con.
To avoid fake check or money order scams, BBB recommends:
• Do not use any funds from a deposited check until your bank has completed its verification process to determine the check is legitimate.
• While mistakes sometimes happen, a legitimate company will never require additional money from an overpaid check to be returned through gift cards.
• Remain calm if threatened with lawsuits or arrest for refusing to immediately return money, and only return money to the same account the check is supposedly drawing from.
• Whenever possible, meet with potential clients or employers in other ways than just email or text and ensure you have multiple working contact methods for them.
Cryptocurrency Share of reports: 5%
Amount lost: $10,200
In the past year, cryptocurrency scams have risen to be one of the riskiest scams North American consumers encounter. Scammers typically leverage the confusion associated with cryptocurrency investments and will ‘guarantee’ a significant return. Most reports submitted to BBB by Bryan-College Station residents indicate the initial contact for these scams originate through internet messaging, with some losing thousands of dollars through multiple interactions and investments. These scammers often provide a fake dashboard that gives the impression the investment is performing well, but when their target tries to withdraw the money, they must either pay a series of withdrawal fees or are unable to contact the trader.
To avoid cryptocurrency scams, BBB recommends:
• Educate yourself about cryptocurrency terminology and investments before providing any money, including if there are fees for withdrawing.
• Be wary of any trader who promises or guarantees a significant return on the investment.
• Invest with caution if the trader presents the opportunity as an ‘inside scoop’ or is an online romantic interest. National reports to BBB indicate a link between romance and cryptocurrency scams.
• Avoid making payments for products or services through adding funds to an individual’s cryptocurrency wallet. These types of payment are much more difficult to dispute than a standard credit card transaction.
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim and helps BBB educate the public about scam tactics.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.