A new analysis of consumer scam reports submitted to the Better Business Bureau indicates a larger portion of Black, Hispanic, Asian and other racial minorities are more likely to lose money when targeted by scammers.
This and other findings come from researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern California who used data collected through the BBB Scam Tracker consumer reporting platform between January 2017 and September 2020. They analyzed over 167,000 reported scams, with particular attention to scams reported between March and September 2020, and their report gives a broader perspective than previous analyses about how scams impact minority communities.
Risk Factors for Victimization: According to the data analysis, women were much more likely than men to report an attempted scam and were twice as likely as men to report money loss; however, men who did lose money lost higher amounts than women. Age did not appear to have a significant effect on the rate of monetary loss, though older victims tended to pay more once victimized.
Consumers reporting from zip codes with a population less likely to have GED or high school equivalent education are more likely to lose money when targeted by scammers, the data showed. However, none of these factors is associated with higher dollar losses. In fact, those reporting from zip codes with a higher-than-average median income are more likely to be victimized and to lose higher amounts of money.
Phishing and online purchase scams spiked in early pandemic: In this analysis, 30% of reported scams included a monetary loss, which is consistent with findings from the annual BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. Scams involving online purchases were persistently the most common scam type reported, followed by phishing requests. Both of these scam types spiked in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was a notable increase in reporting of scams during March – September 2020, particularly for online purchase and phishing scams, as well as all scams related to COVID-19. The rise and fall of COVID-19 scams coincided with the period of intense shortages, with the most common COVID-19 related scam in the U.S. involving the sale of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
Also note: If you’ve gotten your COVID-19 vaccine and you’re tempted to share the good news on social media, think twice about posting a photo of your vaccination card. The self-identifying info on the card makes you vulnerable to identity theft and can help scammers create fake versions of the vaccination cards.
Your COVID-19 vaccination card has your full name and birthday on it, as well as information about where you got your vaccine. If your social media privacy settings aren’t set high, you may be giving away valuable information for anyone to use.
Sharing your personal info isn’t the only issue. Scammers in Great Britain were caught selling fake vaccination cards on eBay and TikTok. It’s only a matter of time before similar cons come to the United States, if not already. Posting photos of your card can help provide scammers with info they can use to create and sell phony ones.
Share safely on social media: Share your vaccine sticker or use a profile frame instead. If you want to post about your vaccine, there are safer ways to do it. You can share a photo of your vaccine sticker or set a frame around your profile picture.
Review your security settings. Check your security settings on all social media platforms to see what you are sharing and with whom. If you only want friends and family to see your posts, be sure that’s how your privacy settings are configured.
Be wary of answering popular social media prompts. Sharing your vaccine photo is just the latest social trend. Think twice before participating in other viral personal posts, such as listing all the cars you’ve owned (including makes/model years), favorite songs, birthday name games, and top 10 TV shows. Some of these “favorite things” are commonly used passwords or security questions.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find info about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.