National Consumers League

New report: Fake online sales top 2015 scams list


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March 1, 2015

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, has released its annual compilation of the top ten scams reported to Fraud.org, NCL’s flagship project for fraud prevention and education. Based on an analysis of more than 10,000 fraud complaints submitted by consumers to Fraud.org in 2015, NCL is warning consumers to beware Internet merchandise sales scams.

For the third year in a row, Internet merchandise scams topped the list of complaints reported to Fraud.org in 2015. These scams typically involve an online ad for goods, such as designer apparel, electronics, and similar high-end items, priced far below their retail value. When a consumer tries to purchase the item, it either never arrives, or a different, inferior, or counterfeit item arrives in its place. Among all complaints where the method of initial contact was online, Internet merchandise complaints made up nearly half of the complaints (43.92%).

“Consumers are always on the lookout for great deals,” said John Breyault, vice president, public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League. “Unfortunately, scammers know this all too well and prey on shoppers by offering seemingly unbeatable deals as a way to trick them into paying for something that doesn’t exist. The key is for buyers to do their due diligence to make sure that the “deal,” isn’t just a scam.”

Another trend observed in 2015: refund and recovery scams are on the rise, as the fastest-growing type of scam reported to Fraud.org in 2015. In refund and recovery scams, con artists either pose as debt collectors who contact victims and claim they owe money on a fictitious debt or as services offering help recovering money lost in a previous scam. The scams ranked third overall in total number of complaints and first in phone-based complaints. Complaints about refund and recovery scams increased by more than 70% compared to that in 2014. Phony prizes and sweepstakes also remained high on the list at #2 of all complaints.

“The fight against fraud is never-ending, as criminals refine their approaches to swindling consumers,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We are particularly concerned about telephone-based scams, which remain a constant threat despite changes in the way we communicate.”

For the third year in a row now, the telephone was the most frequent way that fraudsters reached their victims in 2015. The telephone was reported by 46.27% of complainants as the way that they were first contacted by a scam artist, ahead of the Web (32.16%), email (11.04%) and postal mail (6.38%).

Consumers who have been approached by people they suspect of being fraudsters, or who have already fallen victim, should be sure to report their experiences to Fraud.org. Newly redesigned, Fraud.org is an online hub where consumers can submit complaints that are shared with our network of more than 90 federal, state, local, and international law enforcement and consumer protection partners. In addition, Fraud.org offers a wealth of consumer education materials that consumers can use to arm themselves with the information they need to avoid falling victim to fraud.

Read the full 2015 top ten scams report.

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About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.