RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) In recent months record-breaking numbers of consumers have been turning to Better Business Bureau.

As of September 2020, there were 2.1 million year-to-date inquiries made on bbb.org locally, which is a 36 percent increase from the 1.5 million inquiries during the same time in 2019.

“We know scams are a major industry, causing consumers to lose an estimated $50 billion annually, so we use any chance we can to warn consumers about scams that might be targeting them,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina. “Assuming you could never become a victim of a scam is exactly what con artists want you to think, because they can catch you off guard and if you do fall victim you’ll be too embarrassed to share your experience with others. The only way to combat the scam industry is by bringing the illegal acts to light, such as reporting a business or offer that seems fraudulent.”

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) reminds consumers that anyone can be scammed, but BBB Scam Tracker is one of the free resources to remain vigilant against scams and help prevent fellow consumers from falling for the same scheme.

In 2019 there were over 37,000 scams reported to BBB, and as of September 2020, there have already been 35,672 year-to-date submissions made, making it more important than ever to guard against these con artists.

How BBB Scam Tracker Works:

BBB Scam Tracker is a free, interactive tool for consumers in the United States and Canada to report scams and fraud while warning others of malicious or suspicious activity. Scam reports are shared with the public through an interactive “heat map” showing users the number and types of scams reported in their communities. 

Results can be sorted to reveal trends over time and by location. Users can read detailed personal accounts of scams and conduct targeted searches using a variety of filers, including: keywords, scam type, country, state/province, and dollars lost. 

BBB Risk Reports:

Using data submitted by consumers the year prior to BBB Scam Tracker, an annual risk report is created to shed light on how scams are being perpetrated, who is being targeted, which scams have the greatest impact, and much more. The BBB Risk Index helps us better understand which scams pose the highest risk by looking at three factors—exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. 

The 2019 report, New Risks and Emerging Technologies: 2019 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, can be found here

In addition to BBB Scam Tracker, BBB has a variety of resources to equip consumers with knowledge and tools they need to avoid scams, such as 10 Steps to Avoid Scams below:

  • Never send money via gift card or wire transfer to someone you have never met face-to-face. 
  • Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. 
  • Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Caller ID is commonly faked.
  • Double-check your online purchase is secure before checking out. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extras is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar.
  • Use extreme caution when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, classified sites, social media, and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con for you to trust them.
  • Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social Security/Social Insurance numbers.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately. Con artists want to push victims to make a decision right now before even thinking through, asking family members, friends, or financial advisors.
  • Use secure and traceable transactions. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card, or another non-traditional payment method (see number one above). 
  • Whenever possible, work with local businesses. Ask that they have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, especially contractors who will be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Review Business Profiles at BBB.org to see what other people have experienced.
  • Be cautious about what you share on social media. Consider only connecting with people you already know. Check the privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Impostors often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you. Then, update and change passwords to passphrases on a regular basis on all online accounts.

To learn more about BBB Scam Tracker, visit BBB.org/scamtracker