Online fraud and text scams more prolific than ever, Better Business Bureau warns

“These scammers know what they are doing. They know how to entice you. They know how to grab your attention,” officials says.

Updated: March 5, 2022 - 10:39pm

Scammers are getting sophisticated and even the most cautious are falling for their deceitful tactics.

Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, said doctors, attorneys and teachers are among those who report being scammed.

“These scammers know what they are doing," Bernas told The Center Square. "They know how to entice you. They know how to grab your attention. And unfortunately, people fall victim to it."

Fifty-six percent of people who report scams to the BBB say they were not shopping when they fell victim to an ad.

“Consumers think they are safe because they are on a well-known website like Facebook or Instagram,” Bernas said. “They run into scammers with fake accounts.”

In most cases, consumers think they are buying a brand-name product and they wind up with a fake Chinese-made look-alike. Or they pay for something and the product is never delivered.

Many scammers take advantage of people’s desires for deals.

“They create a sense of urgency. 'This is too good of a deal to pass up.’ And that’s how the scammers do it,” Bernas said.

Consumers mistakenly believe there is protection because the ad is on Facebook or Instagram but the scammer gets the ad posted before Facebook finds them.

“It’s like whack-a-mole. One scam pops up, another one comes down, another one pops up. You can’t keep up with it,” Bernas said.

Facebook and Instagram take down thousands of fake accounts every day, but they can’t take the scams down fast enough, according to Bernas. In the past few years, Facebook has taken down one billion accounts.

“Think about what that says about the extent of the fraud out there,” he said. “A lot of it is around bad products, but it is also around identity left.”

Text scams have become increasingly prolific, Bernas said. Last year, a BBB employee nearly fell for a text that appeared to be from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The text said the person’s driver’s license would expire in a month. “Click here to update your license. Put in your license number,” the text said.

“No! That’s the scam!” Bernas said.

A similar text scam told the recipient that their bank had noticed unusual activity. "Click here and put in your account number," the text said.

“It works. A lot of people fall for it,” Bernas said.

If you are tempted to buy something online from a company you have not done business with, do a simple internet search, Bernas advises. Put in the company name and the word “scam” and see what comes up.

He also recommends always making purchases with major credit cards, and never using apps that transfer money directly.

“You give the money or wire money or give a gift card. Kiss it goodbye,” he said.

Most consumers do not report scams, Bernas lamented. He urges people to use the BBB scam tracker at bbb.org to help law enforcement target criminals and shut down fake websites. The Better Business Bureau scam database helps the FBI and Federal Trade Commission find scammers and shut them down.

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