The National Consumers League is warning that recession-related scams continue to flourish, as desperate consumers look for ways to make a buck.
The most worrisome schemes are those that promise people an easy way to make some extra money. NCL says the timing is terrible, because at the same time fraudsters are striking, many government watchdog agencies are thinning their staffs for budget reasons.
Here are some of the most common recession-related scams. Learn to recognize them and share them with more vulnerable friends and relatives.
Fake Checks: This scam usually targets people who are selling something like a car. The scammer makes a tempting offer, then sends what looks like a cashier's check for more than the agreed-upon amount.
The crook asks the seller to cash the check and return the difference to him. (The bad guys have lots of excuses for doing this.) Many banks initially clear these fake checks, then later force the victim to repay the money, because you are responsible when you deposit a bad check.
NCL says a large portion of recent fake check schemes involve mystery shopping jobs and fraudulent sweepstakes.
Work at home: A lot of advertised work-at-home offers are frauds. You are probably not going to make millions stuffing envelopes, doing medical billing or making arts and crafts at home.
Phishing: Crooks send you an e-mail that looks like it's from your bank and then ask for all the personal financial information needed to steal your identity. Phishing has been a problem for years, but these days crooks are tailoring their pitches to relate to the banking and mortgage crises.
Foreclosure Rescue: With foreclosures at record levels, some crooked businesses are approaching people and claiming they can save their homes. They take a huge fee up front and do nothing or they get you to sign the title to your house over to them.
Here are the Top 10 Frauds according to the National Consumers League:
1. Fake Check Scams
2. Internet: Gen Merchandise
3. Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts
5. Nigerian Money Offers (not prizes)
6. Business Opportunities/Franchises/Distributorship
7. Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers
8. Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles
9. Internet: Auctions
10. Lotteries/Lottery Ticket Buying Clubs