Top 10 scams of 2011—Fraudsters targeting victims by age

Consumer Reports News: February 02, 2012 02:08 PM

The most frequently reported scam of 2011 involved bogus prizes and sweepstakes, with fake check scams and fraudsters posing as loved ones, according to the National Consumers League's report of the top scams reported to its national Fraud Center.

Of significance is that more than ever, scammers are targeting certain age groups, the Consumers League found. For example, bogus prizes, sweepstakes, and free gifts made up 27 percent of complaints overall, but among people ages 56 to 65 and older, these types of complaints made up 41 percent and about 60 percent of the total, respectively.

Similarly, fake check scams made up about 27 percent of complaints overall, and among people ages 18 to 25, complaints about fake check scams made up about 46 percent of the total.

New to the list of top-ten scams is the fraudster who impersonates a family member or friend in need.

Top 10 scams of 2011:

  1. Prizes, sweepstakes and fake free gifts
  2. Fake check scams
  3. Internet scams for general merchandise
  4. Phishing and spoofing
  5. Advance fee loans and "credit arrangers"
  6. Scholarships and grants
  7. Friendship and sweetheart swindles
  8. Nigerian money offers (not prizes)
  9. Family or friend imposters
  10. Fraudulent Internet auctions

John Breyault, NCL vice-president of public policy, telecommunications, and fraud said that, unfortunately, many scam artists will stop at nothing. "The scary part about these scams is that they prey on our natural inclination to want to help a loved one who is in distress," he said in a press statement.

The majority of money lost to frauds and scams last year was sent by wire transfer, which is a popular payment method of scammers because of the difficulty to track, according to the NCL.

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg described fraudulent telemarketers and Web-based scammers as criminals out to get your life savings. She offers the following advice to consumers:

The best way for consumers to fight back is to get educated and not be afraid to report such fraud to law enforcement. Scammers know all too well that their victims are often embarrassed and count on this to continue to perpetrate their crimes.

If you think you've been the victim of a scam or fraud, you can report it to NCL at

NCL's Fraud Center: Top Scams of 2011 (pdf) [NCL]
Scammers targeting their victims by age group, says National Consumers League’s Fraud Center [NCL]

Maggie Shader

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