Online Scams Are A Growing Threat

June 2020 Newsletter

Scammers never take a day off. Holidays, special events, tax season, sales season, emergencies—no matter what’s going on—bad actors never pass up an opportunity to swindle people into handing over their money, giving up personal information or sharing sensitive data.

The Better Business Bureau has released its most recent Scam Tracker Risk Report. The annual report revealed some eye-opening statistics. The report finds that, not only did the median dollar loss associated with scams tick upward in 2019 to $160, (up from $152 in 2018) the percent of reports that included a dollar loss also rose, from 29.5 percent in 2018 to 35.1 percent in 2019. Customers are becoming more likely to lose money as a result of scams.

An even bigger shock: 81.2 percent of consumers reported losing money to online purchase scams. It’s alarming to find that scams tied to online purchases were the top scam of 2019 in Minnesota.

What to watch for

In light of this troubling trend, here are the three warning signs of online scams and three actions you can take if you've fallen victim.

1. Outrageous offers
Be suspicious of extremely low prices, savings offers, unusual promotions or sudden price drops. If you find a new laptop online for $150, question that. Compare the price for the same model on another site.

2. Shady e-commerce sites
An authentic professional website from a reputable company should be free of spelling errors and strange links and should openly advertise its contact information on a Contact page, including phone number, location and customer support. Don't shop on a site if you can't confirm it's legitimate.

Site security is a major factor. Before you shop anywhere, verify the URL contains "https" in the address. The "s" stands for security, meaning all your communication on the site is encrypted.

What you can do
If you think you've been scammed. Here are three steps you can take.

1. Contact your financial institution
Your bank can put a hold on your debit card, checks or your account, and credit card companies can freeze your cards. Ask about fraud protection, a service that might cover charges made without your consent.

2. Monitor your statements
You might be able to receive alerts and notifications about suspicious purchases, or purchases made above a designated dollar amount. Review your statements and activity as often as possible.

3. File a police report
Filing a report creates a record of the scam activity and could direct the authorities to investigate your case. It's likely that your financial institution will receive a copy of the report as well. The faster you act, the better your chances of tracking down the scammer.

Updated: Sep 8, 2021