People of any age and at any stage of their life are at risk of falling prey to a scam. There are a few rules of thumb to remember and to protect yourself, but always remember one thing: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Victims of consumer scams lose money and time, and may find their reputation has been ruined or they are the target for legal action.
The top ten Internet scams as listed by the National Consumers League’s (NCL) Fraud Center, in 2006 included:
- Online Auctions: Misrepresented or undelivered goods.
- General Merchandise: Misrepresented or undelivered goods not purchased through auctions.
- Fake Check Scams: Consumers used fake checks to pay for sold items, and asked to have the money wired back.
- Nigerian Money Offers: Deceptive promises of large sums of money, if consumers agreed to pay the transfer fee.
- Lotteries: Asking winners to pay before claiming their non-existent prize.
- Advance Fee Loans: Request a fee from consumers in exchange of promised personal loans.
- Phishing: Emails pretending to represent a credible source, ask consumers for their personal information (e.g. credit card number).
- Prizes/Sweepstakes: Request a payment from consumers in order for them to claim their non-existent prize
- Internet Access Services: Misrepresentation of the cost of Internet access and other services, which are often not provided.
- Investments: False promises of gains on investments.