Scammers have been hard at work this year trying to steal your money, your identity, and your personal information. Here are the top 5 scams that hit our area in 2017.
“I fell into their trap,” said 75-year-old Marcia Derenzo. We introduced you to her last July.
Unfortunately, she fell for the Cleveland Better Business Bureau's number 5 most complained about a scam in our area this year: tech support scams. "It blocked my computer. I couldn't do anything,” said Derenzo.
A pop-up comes on your screen or criminals call you saying there's something wrong with your computer. You click and they take control.
"Be aware that Microsoft does not solicit you by phone to tell you that your computer is infected and they don't do pop-ups like that," said President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland Sue McConnell.
Number 4 on the list: Tax collection and debt collection scams. People claim to be from the IRS telling you to pay up now or you'll pay the consequences. "The IRS doesn't call and threaten you with immediate arrest, or deportation, or taking away your driver's license if you don't pay up a debt right away," said McConnell.
Number 3: Sweepstakes and lottery scams. You've won something big but you have to pay upfront like a customs fee in order to get your millions of dollars. "These aren't new,” said McConnell. “These are perennial rip-offs, but they evidently have some degree of success or the scammers wouldn't keep trying them."
Number 2: Government grant scams. You get a phone call or email saying you are entitled to a federal grant because you haven't filed for bankruptcy or you have good credit. "The grant is usually $10,000 or so,” McConnell told us. “You have to pay money upfront and they'll come up with all kinds reasons like legal fees, application fees whatever they want to call it."
Number 1: Phishing scams. "Phishing attempts can be made by phone, by email, by text," said McConnell. Scammers could say you owe a past debt, there's a great item to buy, you've been chosen for a free product or service, or pretty much anything for that matter. "They're all attempts to try to get you to reveal something that should be kept confidential," McConnell told us.
Victims like Derenzo say you have to be careful. "I just hope that it helps somebody else so they don't get scammed," Derenzo told us.
Here are some more scams that people complained about:
-Travel and vacation scams: You've won a free vacation or we know you own a timeshare and we'll help you unload it. There are lots of fees behind those kinds of scams.
-Online purchase scams like puppy scams: Fake websites have great pictures of puppies and the criminals will ask for fees, sudden vet bills, a cage to transport the dog, and all kinds of things. In reality, there was no puppy to begin with.
-Employment scams: You resume is on-line. Criminals get that info and call or email you. They ask you to fill out an application or pay for equipment up-front. They send you fake checks that bounce after you have already given your money. A man in Westlake was scammed out of $22,000 this year with this kind of scheme.
-Advance fee loan scams: People are tight on cash this time of the year so, they go online to get a loan. They find a website offering money and fill out an application with lots of personal information. That info could be used to steal your identity. You also find out you have to pay a fee upfront to get the loan only to realize there never was a loan to begin with.