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America's worst scams

September 3, 2012 2:33:34 PM PDT
The economy may be struggling, but the fraud business is booming. Fraud and ID theft complaints are up sharply. Consumer Reports says scam artists are cleverly exploiting all kinds of new technology to rip you off.

Susan Feinberg was stunned to find out that criminals had raided her home-equity line of credit by pretending to be her.

"We discovered that they had cashed checks for 17-thousand dollars," she said.

Susan isn't sure how the crooks got crucial information like her Social Security number and mother's maiden name. But frequently people are fooled into sharing those details online.

Consumer Reports reveals America's worst scams - many of which tap into ever-changing technology.

"We've cautioned against phishing e-mails that trick you to reveal your personal information. But now scammers have figured out how to lure you on your cell phone," Kim Kleman, Editor in Chief of Consumer Reports, said.

In this type of fraud - called smishing - a phony link from a major retailer appears in a text message offering, for instance, a thousand-dollar gift voucher. The goal? Grabbing your information.

Even e-mail phishing scams have gotten more sophisticated. This looks like an e-mail to confirm a flight, and this looks like an invoice from UPS.

"Old-fashioned scams also work. We found plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the door, or over the phone," Kleman said.

For instance, callers who say they're from a reputable company offer to slash your credit-card interest rate or fix a computer virus they've detected. All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive financial information.

"Bottom line: Never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out," she said.

Fortunately, the bank agreed Susan was not responsible for the 17- thousand dollars stolen. She did set up a fraud alert with the three major credit-reporting bureaus. Consumer Reports also recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.

And Consumer Reports says to add insult to injury, people who are scammed can be targeted by another scam - crooks who promise to recover your stolen money. They charge hundreds of dollars and don't recover your losses.

You can learn more about this Consumer Reports investigation at: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/scams2012

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