BBB: Online scams rose 87% since 2015, phone scams dropped 42%

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A man types on a computer keyboard. WISC-TV/Channel3000.

MILWAUKEE — The number of online scams reported to the Better Business Bureau rose 87% since 2015, the organization said Wednesday.

The data underscores how scammers are changing tactics to target consumers where they are most often. The most common online scams that resulted in monetary loss were purchase scams, cryptocurrency scams and romance scams.

“The shift in scam tactics is driven by a range of factors such as the rise of social media, world events, and changes in consumer behavior,” BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust executive director Melissa Lanning Trumpower said. “Our latest findings reinforce the guidance we’ve been giving consumers to help them stay updated on these tactics to avoid losing money to scams.”

A new BBB report found that online scams were 55% more prevalent than other kinds of scams, and a greater percentage of people who were targeted by the scams lost money. The No. 1 place where people reported being targeted by a scammer was on social media.

The report analyzed over 300,000 reports submitted to the BB Scam Tracker between 2015 and 2022 as well as survey research conducted in July.

Most people surveyed continued to engage with online scammers because they thought they would gain something, make a sale, or they were curious to learn more. By contrast, only 30% of people surveyed said they continued engaging with the scammers because they feared losing something or felt threatened.

Over half of survey respondents said that the scammer claimed to be from a legitimate organization, and those who lost money were almost twice as likely to say that they fell for a scammer who impersonated an organization than those who did not lose money.

The BBB said that the best way to prevent being scammed is to be skeptical. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. If someone reaches out to you unsolicited, they may not be trustworthy.

Consumers should also be careful when buying items that are in high demand and do research before buying products.