Rise in Online Scams

By Better Business Bureau Great West & Pacific

Tactics used by scammers have shifted drastically during the past several years, according to a new report published by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Since 2015, online scams have risen by 87 percent. During the same period, scams perpetrated via phone dropped 42 percent.

The recently released, Start With Trust ® Online: BBB Online Scams Report, is based on two sets of data. The BBB analyzed data of more than 300,000 reports submitted to BBB Scam Tracker between 2015 and 2022 and conducted survey research in July 2022.

“The methods scammers use to target consumers have shifted significantly since BBB began collecting scam reports from the public in 2015,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust.

Leading into the holiday season, this report aims to bring awareness to consumers about the prevalence of scams in today’s digital world.

So far in 2022, scams perpetrated online are more prevalent (55 percent) than other delivery methods, with a higher percentage of people losing money when targeted (75 percent). When breaking out scams perpetrated via phone with a monetary loss, scams perpetrated via text message rose from 11 percent in 2015 to 30 percent in 2022. Scams perpetrated via text had a median dollar loss of $800 in 2022, higher than other reported means of contact. Text message was the most reported offline method used to push people online.

The scam type, with a monetary loss, most often reported was online purchase scams (89 percent), while the number one place people reported being targeted by a scam was while browsing social media (25 percent).

54 percent of survey respondents said the scammer claimed to be from a legitimate organization. Of those who reported being targeted by an impersonation scam, 50 percent said the scammer pretended to be a business. When targeted by an impersonation scam, 68 percent of survey respondents said they did not ask the person to provide verification.

Online purchase scams continued to be the most reported scam type to BBB Scam Tracker in 2022, making up 30 percent of all scams reported, with 71.6 percent reporting a monetary loss. The reported median dollar loss for this type of scam rose from $101 in 2021 to $114 in 2022.

When looking at the ages of 18-24, the reported median dollar loss for this scam type increased 25.8 percent from $124 in 2021 to $156 in 2022. When compared to other demographics, this age group reported the highest median dollar loss.

Prevention tips

How and where you search, research and conduct transactions may impact your susceptibility to online scams. Tips for avoiding losing money to online scams include:

If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Price was the top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and then lost money. Scammers offer hard-to-find items and highly sought-after products at great prices.

Before you buy, do your research with a trustworthy source. One of the best ways to avoid scams is to verify the offer and avoid making snap buying decisions.

Avoid making quick purchases on social media. 25 percent of survey respondents reported being targeted while browsing social media.

Use secure and traceable transactions. Avoid paying by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card or other non-traditional payment methods.

Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean it is. For example, if a business displays a BBB Accredited Business seal, you can verify its legitimacy by going to BBB.org and looking up the company.

Be skeptical about anyone who reaches out to you unsolicited. Survey respondents told us scammers produced fake business cards, websites, credentials, ratings and more to convince consumers they were legitimate.

Visit BBB.org/ScamTracker to report a scam and learn more about other risky scams at BBB.org/ScamTips.

Rise in Online Scams

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