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BBB reviews top consumer scams of 2017

Based on information compiled from consumers and business owners, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) released its list of Top 10 scams of 2017.

The list is based on local reports to BBB Scam Tracker during the calendar year.

"We believe the Scam Tracker is an invaluable tool, for BBB, consumers and business owners," said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of BBB. "It helps us track the pulse of the marketplace and serves as both a reporting tool and an online tutorial on how various forms of fraud are perpetrated."

The top-reported scam of the year was the "Can you hear me?" calls which made the rounds in early 2017. Though the end goal of this shady phone call was never entirely clear, the process went like this: People would receive phone calls and an automated voice would say, "Can you hear me?" It is believed the goal was to get people to say "yes," possibly to serve as "proof" they had authorized a charge or agreed to some kind of offer. These calls filtered out as the year progressed, but should they flare up again — as scams so often do — BBB advises people to simply hang up the phone.

Online purchases were the second most-reported scam of the year, with many of these having to do with purchases made on less-than-reputable websites or products received being different from what was advertised. Such reports also encompass situations where people signed up for trial offers and were then charged on an ongoing basis, despite attempts to cancel or not authorizing these charges.

The Top Ten Scams of 2017 were as follows:

1. Phishing (Can you hear me?)

2. Online purchases

3. Travel/vacation offers

4. Tech support scams

5. Sweepstakes/lottery/prize offers

6. Employment schemes

7. Suspect debt collection calls

8. Unwanted credit card offers

9. Tax/IRS collection schemes

10. Counterfeit Products

BBB Scam Tracker was launched in North America in 2015. Since that time, it has received more than 93,000 reports of suspect offers, fraud or attempted fraud. BBB staffers review all submissions to the site in order to watch for patterns of a problem and ensure the submissions are authentic. Reports that involve legitimate businesses are converted to complaints.

Scam Tracker also gives people the ability to see where scams are occurring locally and nationally, and allows them to search for fraudulent activity by keyword or within geographic regions.

Even if consumers or business owners don't fall victim to schemes they're confronted with, they're encouraged to file a report through BBB Scam Tracker. Data collected through these reports is shared with law enforcement who, with enough information, may be able to take steps to shut down fraudulent websites and illicit operations.

The mission of BBB is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. It's open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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