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If it's too good to be true, then it's probably too good to be true. And even if it's not, you still need to be careful. That's the advice of the Better Business Bureau, which released its annual Denver/Boulder "Top 10 Complaints of 2012" list on Monday. Among the "thousands of complaints each year," phishing and mail scams wreaked the most havoc, "while trends specific to 2012 had to do with online shopping, movers, phony fundraising, and text scams, according to the agency. Here's the list.
1) Phishing Scams
For the second year in a row, phishing was the most common issue reported to the BBB. "Phishing" is when a scammer calls or emails someone asking for personal information or prompts the clicking of a link or opening of an attachment. Phishers operate under the guise of a trusted organization such as a bank or doctor's office. The consequence of phishing is either identity theft, a computer virus that steals information used to steal money, or oftentimes a combination of both. Phishers sending emails posing as the BBB itself was widespread again in 2012. These emails often appeared to be a "complaint about your business" and asked recipients to click on a link to respond to the complaint, but the link downloaded a malicious virus instead of linking to a complaint.
2) Deceptive Mail The BBB's office took hundreds of calls in 2012 from recipients of deceptive letters in the mail. Many of these letters had the appearance of a bill or invoice, but were simply solicitations for services or products. There were also reports of letters that told recipients they'd won free airline tickets, but of course, they didn't. Fraudulent sweepstakes letters were also continued to be a very prevalent scam.
3) Internet Shopping As more consumers turned to the Internet in 2012 to make purchases, complaints about Internet shopping more than doubled compared to 2011. Complaints were about non-delivery of items paid for, late delivery and customer service issues. There were also problems with merchants who offered "daily deal" types of promotions on the Internet but weren't delivering.
4) Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams Sweepstakes and lottery scams happen when the target is told they've won a huge sum of money or is sent a "prize check" (which is counterfeit), and in order to claim the prize, must send a smaller amount of money via wire transfer. The money is wired, the prize never arrives or the "prize check" bounces, and the scammer has the money that was sent which can't be traced because it was wired. These scams were common again in 2012, one of which was the "Jamaican Sweepstakes Scam." The scammer called from an 876 Jamaican area code and there were many reports that the caller claimed to be from the BBB, or that the sweepstakes was approved by the BBB. Of course, these claims were not true.
5) Timeshare Scams In 2012, many consumers fell victim to timeshare scams. They paid a large fee upfront to have their timeshare sold, listed or to have the deed transferred or "taken over," but received no such service in return. Complainants stated they couldn't get their money back. The BBB has reviews on numerous timeshare companies that have F ratings, the lowest rating possible. Many of these companies use fake Colorado addresses and their actual whereabouts are unknown.
6) Movers Complaints against movers about significantly overcharging at the time of unloading, as well as slow delivery times and damaged goods were common in 2012. Many of the industry's complaints were attributed to one company that goes by several names including: 67th Avenue Moving and Storage, Neighbors Moving and Storage, and Father and Sons Moving and Storage. In 2012, this company earned an F rating with the BBB and was penalized by the Public Utilities Commission.
7) Magazine Scams The magazine "subscription agent" industry has been a problem in Colorado for many years and 2012 was no different. This year though, the BBB was able to help the Colorado Attorney General's office put a stop to some of the common scams. A married couple, who ran several businesses known for deceptive door-to-door selling and failure to provide cancellations and refunds, was permanently barred from the magazine industry in the state of Colorado.
8) Roofers Roofing is a big industry in the BBB of Denver/Boulder's service area and consumers reported problems with work done, or lack thereof even though payment had already been given. Though complaints against roofers decreased compared to 2011, the industry was still the #5 most-complained about. The BBB also had several concerns about several roofers' misleading advertising of "free roofs."
9) Charity Scams As Colorado saw more than its fair share of tragedy in 2012 with the historic wildfires and the Aurora theater massacre, scammers tried to take advantage of our citizens' compassion. After the wildfires, people received robocall solicitations and door-to-door pleas asking for donations that weren't connected to any legitimate relief organizations. After the Aurora shootings, fake victim funds were created on Facebook.
10) Text Scams Many consumers, especially going into the 2012 holiday season, contacted the BBB asking about text messages they received saying they won a $1,000 gift card to a store such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Target. The text asks the recipient to visit a website to obtain the gift card but the website simply asked for personal information and/or offered products, but no gift card was ever awarded as indicated in the text.