Fake checks and Internet scams top 2013 fraud list

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WASHINGTON (PAI) - Fake checks and Internet scams again topped the list of most-frequent frauds, the National Consumers League reports. But in 2013, it adds, telemarketing scams are moving up.

In annual data compiled from its fraud hotline, NCL reported that fake checks accounted for almost one in every four (24.23 percent) of scams last year. But Internet scams (23 percent) and prizes and sweepstakes (22.76 percent) were not far behind.

Telemarketing is the first contact point with consumers, whom the scammers then steered to the Internet or elsewhere, NCL said. "For years, the most frequent way that consumers reported coming into contact with scammers was via websites or email. More than 36 percent of complaints to www.Fraud.org indicated that the phone was the initial method of contact, up from just over a quarter of complaints in 2012," NCL reported.

The frequent contact from scammers and the variety of ways they try to fleece consumers should put people on their guard, says NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. That's especially true as reports keep surfacing of the private sector's inability to protect consumers' information, she adds. NCL's anti-scam kit is on www.Fraud.org.

"Worry about consumers' vulnerability to fraud attacks has never been so great, with new headlines about the growing millions of Americans whose personal information has been stolen appearing every day," Greenberg says.

Many of the scams are intertwined. For example, though Internet scams finished second overall, 33.8 percent of the Internet scams involved fake checks. And another 33 percent involved merchandise bought on the web but never delivered.

A new twist in scams is that a second set of scammers then calls consumers offering - for a fee - to recover funds lost to the first scam. Those recovery/refund scams accounted for 1.1 percent of all calls to NCL's fraud hotline.

"Losing money to a scammer is bad enough. Unfortunately, consumers who fall victim to con artists often find their way on to lead lists that scammers buy, sell and trade amongst themselves.

"Scammers using the 'refund and recovery' fraud will pitch victims through phone calls and direct mail claiming they can recover their lost money. The catch is the victims need to pay a fee to 'recover' the losses. In fact, the pitch is just another scam designed to get even more money from victims. In 2013, this scam was the fastest-growing type of non-Internet scam reported to NCL's fraud.org campaign."

Photo: AP

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