BBB's top scams of 2012

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Better Business Bureau has just released its top scams of 2012. I've been reporting on these scams for years so I was not surprised to see many of them on the list because they come across my desk almost everyday. Even so, scams were a big problem last year.

"One of our jobs is to make sure consumers are aware of what scams are out there and really to know what's happened in the past year cause a lot of time those scams re-surface, Felicia Thomas with the Better Business Bureau in Phoenix said.

Thomas said the biggest scam they came across relates to the Newtown, Conn. massacre.

"Within hours or minutes even of that tragedy happening, folks decided to take their children's photos and put them on social media sites pretending to be relatives asking for money," Thomas said.

Thomas said tragic events like these actually help scammers play on people's emotions.

"To us, that is the most mind-boggling scam of 2012," Thomas said.

Another big scam compiled by the Better Business Bureau is something known as the "Car Wrap" scam. It's a job opportunity that claims to pay you big bucks if you agree to wrap your car with a company logo. There are legitimate offers to do this, but most of them are scams, the Better Business Bureau said.

"You'll get a check, they're asking you to deposit the check, wire half the money to a graphic artist
who will design and wrap your car to help the company advertise," Thomas said.

Many scams Thomas said stem from people looking for services online. A big one is "on-line loans" but before you get your money, there's always a catch.

"They have to pay a fee, or make a first time payment, things that don't add up to legitimate loans," Thomas said.

And a big one that continues to surface year after year is "the mystery shopper ad." This scam supposedly pays consumers to secretly shop and evaluate the business you are shopping at. But first you're asked to wire money to the scammers.
And another big scam that didn't' go away is the "Grandparents scam."

"The term is used loosely cause it could be a niece or an aunt," Thomas said.

Either way the scammers ploy is always the same. The scammer will contact a senior citizen and pretend to be a grandson or granddaughter who traveled to another country.

"They're using that to call, in most situations, grandparents and to say, 'I'm in trouble, I need help. I'm gonna be arrested if you don't wire money,'" Thomas explained.

The scammer usually knows the grandchild's name and convinces seniors into wiring money.

I just got an email yesterday from a Sun City grandmother who received a phone call from her so called "grandson" who said he was in a Mexican jail and she needed to wire money to bail him out.

The grandmother told 3 On Your Side that she was so emotional and distraught over the thought that her grandson was in jail that she almost fell for it.

Luckily, the grandmother realized it was a scam and hung up. But this is a good reminder that this scam is still out there.