Weatherford Democrat

Business

January 8, 2010

BBB lists top 10 scams and rip-offs of 2009

Free trial offers and scams that take advantage of tough economic times dominate the list

FORT WORTH – Better Business Bureau has released a list of the top 10 scams and rip-offs of 2009. Not surprisingly, many scams sought to take advantage of people who were suffering under tough economic circumstances — such as the unemployed. Additionally, the use of free-trial offers to lock consumers into recurring credit and debit card charges was widespread online.

“While many of the scams on the list are perennial problems, some scams were distinct in 2009 because of the economic climate and scammers’ penchant for taking advantage of the top headlines,” said John Riggins, CEO BBB at Fort Worth. “Some scams plagued different parts of the country more than others. For example, in places particularly hit by the housing crisis, bogus offers for foreclosure rescue or debt assistance ran rampant.”

Following, in no particular order, is BBB’s list of top scams and rip-offs that took advantage of consumers and small business owners across the U.S. in 2009:

 

n Acai Supplements and Other “Free” Trial Offers – Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanket the Internet, including trusted Web sites of national news organizations. The marketing campaigns often falsely claimed an endorsement by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Doctor Oz. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.

 

n Stimulus/Government Grant Scams – Even before President Obama announced the stimulus plan in February, scammers had already set up schemes for misleading consumers and small business owners into thinking they could get a piece of the pie. Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.

 

n Robocalls – Owning a cell phone or having their phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the US put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009.  The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire — which wasn’t true — or offered help in reducing their interest rate on their credit card. The prevalence of robocalls violating federal telemarketing laws prompted the FTC to increase restrictions on the practice in 2009.

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