Scams to watch for in 2012

The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin investigates fraud reports throughout the year and reveals 12 of the newest and/or most common scams that consumers should avoid in 2012.  

  • BBB Phishing Frustrations: Businesses and organizations around the country are receiving fraudulent complaint emails from scammers who are abusing BBB’s name and reputation. 
  • Mortgage Relief Misleaders: Homeowners are tricked into paying large upfront fees for mortgage relief services and then companies disappear abruptly. 
  • Hotel Hoaxes: Hotel guests receive calls in their rooms – often late at night – claiming that front desk computers have crashed and credit card numbers are needed again; victims provide information, but callers are not hotel employees.  
  • Cheating Contractors: Homeowners are left with little recourse after door-to-door repairmen promise incredible deals, require large upfront fees and then skip out before completing work. 
  • Check cashing cons: Sellers receive checks for more than items are worth and are instructed to wire excess money back. Checks later bounce and victims are responsible for lost funds. 
  • Social Media Scams: Victims are sent "popular" viral videos on social networking sites, but must upgrade software to view files. Downloads may install malware or viruses that place victims at risk for identity theft. 
  • Swindling Sweepstakes: Consumers who did not enter sweepstakes or foreign lotteries are informed that they have won large sums of money or other prizes and must pay smaller sums in order to collect; payments are made and nothing is received. 
  • Canine Cons: Scammers set up a fake website selling non-existent puppies for rock-bottom prices. Victims wire money to the so-called seller, but never receive their puppy. 
  • Pay the Con Artist Using Pre-Paid Debit Cards. Since consumers are getting wise to wiring money or fake checks, many scammers now prefer to be paid using untraceable, pre-paid debit cards. 
  • Timeshare Shams: In this tough real estate market, timeshare sellers should beware of companies that claim to already have a buyer and want upfront fees.
  • Job Scams: Scammers are working overtime to take advantage of the high number of people looking for jobs, especially online. 
  • Lousy Legal Advice: Some scammers are offering low-cost legal advice, but don’t have any legal qualifications. The only problem? The consumer may end up in even more legal trouble.

Report scams to BBB through Scam Source at To find reputable businesses, visit

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin), 608-268-2221 (SW Wisconsin) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).

Rand Hoth is president of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

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