By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) There are some very sneaky online scams out there that could lure you in if you don’t have your guard up. So remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be so quick to click.
Detroit Free Press
Stefanie Rinna, 26, initially was pretty happy to get a text from a prospective employer who said she spotted the young woman’s information on the job site Indeed.com. So Rinna jumped on the chance in September to do an interview via Google Hangouts.
The interviewer for the food packaging company seemed to want to fill a real job.
“At first, she seemed pretty legit,” said Rinna, a mother of three who lives in Taylor, Mich. “She was pretty formal.”
No, they never talked by phone. No, they didn’t do a video chat. Just chatting by text via Google Hangouts.
But maybe, Rinna hoped, this could be a real job as an administrative assistant. The pay was great: $26 an hour during her training period and after that $29 an hour.
Who interviews for a job via Google?
Then the company ended up sending a cashier’s check via FedEx for around $1,099. She was to deposit the check in her bank and use the money to buy a fax machine, a copy machine and a MacBook Pro to work from home.
OK, but all that stuff would have cost her around $3,000, based on her estimates.
She began to wonder if the check was even real. She called the bank that supposedly issued the check out of the Washington, D.C., area. She discovered it was a fake check, thankfully before she deposited it.
The first red flag, she says now, should have been that interview: “Who does an interview through Google Hangouts, for one?”
Millennials are losing cash to scammers
So you think retirees are the only ones being targeted by scammers? Not at all.
Millennials in their 20s and 30s are falling at a fast clip for online shopping fraud, con artists who pretend to be your boss, imposters who pretend to be from the federal government, fake check scams and business opportunities or work-at-home jobs.
Millennials, for example, are twice as likely as people who are 40 and older to report losing money while shopping online, according to reports to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
And it often doesn’t start with a robocall. Millennials are 77% more likely to report losing money to a scam that starts out with an email.
And millennials are 93% more likely than people age 40 or older to report losing money to fake check scams, which can be part of some frauds that are designed to look like a one step along the way for finding a cure for a financial headache.
Rinna remains baffled by that job scam.
“I’m not sure what their motive was and I wasn’t sticking around to find out,” she said.
“The only thing they got out of me was my name and address and a signature. A very poor quality signature.”
In similar job scams, though, the fraudsters often give the consumers a list of businesses where they’re supposed to buy the equipment or specific suppliers.
“Those ‘businesses’ are usually websites the scammer has also setup. It’s a very sophisticated scheme. She was probably correct in thinking the items would cost more on a legitimate website,” said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan & the Upper Peninsula.
Alexa, why are you charging me a fee?
Scammers, of course, chase the latest trends and now they’re trying to convince consumers that they must pay $80 to $100 to activate a new media player, virtual assistant, and other tech device, such as Roku, Google Home or Alexa, according to a new warning from the Better Business Bureau.
Here’s how the scam works: You search for a customer support number online. But instead of getting the official website, you end up with a phony, look-alike site. You call that number and you are told there is a new policy in place: All device users must now pay an activation fee.
The scammers may ask for prepaid gift cards, or they may ask directly for your credit card number. “In some cases, they may ‘help’ you come up with a new username and password, thereby gaining access to your device account,” the BBB warns.
Scammers have more luck using social media
New fraud research, a joint report by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Better Business Bureau and the Stanford Center for Longevity, indicated that people are most likely to be ripped off when it comes to online purchases and scams that start off via social media or fake websites.
“When phone and email were used by scammers to target consumers, relatively few consumers engaged with the scammer or lost money,” according to the report called “Exposed to Scams: What Separates Victims from Non-Victims?”
“However, when exposed to a scam on social media, 91% engaged and 53% lost money.”
Those more likely to become victims, according to the report, included: Someone who feels lonely or experiences being isolated, perhaps widowed or divorced. Younger adults who are under financial strain.
What can help someone avoid a scam: Some media buzz about a particular scam or hearing word-of-mouth warnings about rip-offs. rip One-third of consumers who were targeted by a scammer, but did not engage, already knew about a specific scam, according to the “Exposed to Scams” research.
It’s not hard to lose $400 to $600
The “Exposed to Scams” researchers surveyed 1,408 Americans and Canadians who were targeted by scammers and reported the fraud to the BBB. Nearly half of those surveyed did not engage with the fraudster. However, nearly a quarter lost an average of $600.
Millennials reported losing $400 based on the median individual loss, where half of the losses are higher and half are lower, according to FTC data. That’s much lower than other age groups where a median loss of $500 was reported for those age 40-59; a loss of $640 was reported for people age 60-79; and $1,700 was reported for people 80 an older.
We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars lost to clever crooks.
Millennials reported losing nearly $450 million to fraud in just the past two years, according to the FTC, and online shopping accounted for $71 million in losses.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.