June 2, 2009
With economy in shambles, group warns consumers are at increased risk of falling for scams
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WASHINGTON, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) has released its annual ranking of the top telemarketing and Internet scams plaguing consumers in 2008, with Fake Check Scams, Internet Merchandise Scams, and Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gift Scams topping the list. NCL’s Fraud Center, which collects reports directly from consumers, tracks emerging scams and trends, and relays complaints to relevant law enforcement and consumer agencies in the United States and Canada, is reminding consumers today that, no matter how pinched they are feeling in the pocketbooks, they must keep a level head in this shaky economy.
2008 Top Overall Scams (read full report)
- Fake Check Scams
- Internet: Gen Merchandise
- Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts
- Nigerian Money Offers (not prizes)
- Internet: Auctions
- Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers
- Lotteries/Lottery Ticket Buying Clubs
- Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles
“Consumers are losing money to scams by the billions, and in this economic environment, they really can’t afford the losses,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director, the nonprofit consumer group that has operated the national Fraud Center since 1992. “The consumer marketplace is challenging enough without the unscrupulous tactics of scam artists thrown into the mix. We’re issuing this reminder today to consumers to keep a level head about offers that seem to be ‘can’t lose’ or ‘no risk’ situations and be on their guard for fraud.”
New noteworthy trends among fraud complaints in 2008 include an increase in the use of the Internet (36.3 percent) and postal mail (25.5 percent) as the method of initial contact by scammers. The two methods replaced email (25.4 percent) which had been the most common method of contact in previous years. In telemarketing scams, fake check fraud continued to dominate, accounting for more than three-fifths (61.2 percent) of all telemarketing fraud complaints logged by consumers. Among scams perpetrated online, Internet merchandise-related complaints (in which consumers lose money on goods purchases at Internet Web sites other than online auctions) bumped fake check schemes from the number one spot on the Internet frauds list.
“Complaints to our Fraud Center tell a variety of stories about consumers being victimized by telemarketing and Internet scams, but there’s a common thread throughout,” said John Breyault, Director of NCL’s Fraud Center and Vice President for Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “The con artists making a living perpetrating these scams are, needless to say, good at what they do. Fraud can happen to anyone, of any age, at every level of education. No one is immune from scams. It’s more important than ever that fraud victims come forward to share their stories, help prevent other consumers from falling victim, and bring scammers to justice.”
The nonprofit NCL’s Fraud Center, unique among consumer organizations, was created in 1992 to combat the economic menace of telemarketing fraud, and in 1996, expanded its fraud-fighting efforts to include scams in cyberspace. The Fraud Center’s www.fraud.org. Web site is a consumer resource with information on the most common telemarketing and Internet scams. Consumers can report suspected fraud using the online complaint form. The Fraud Center transmits reports to the appropriate agencies among more than 190 law enforcement and consumer protection authorities in the U.S. and Canada that participate in the Fraud Center’s “early warning” system. These reports alert agencies to emerging scams and help put them in touch with victims, while providing the necessary ammunition to investigate and shut down fraudulent operations. To learn more about the top Internet and telemarketing frauds of 2008, visit www.fraud.org.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.