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FTC: 1 in 10 adults are fraud victims

More than 26 million Americans were scammed in 2011, falling victim to dubious offers like weight-loss products that do nothing and non-existent mortgage relief.

By Mitch Lipka Apr 22, 2013 5:04PM
Image: Concerned couple with paperwork © Thinkstock, Comstock, Getty ImagesThe scam warnings flew after the Boston Marathon bombings. Just last week, a California man pleaded guilty to a so-called "cookie stuffing" scam -- getting consumers to unwittingly play a role in his scheme to defraud eBay by crediting him for driving traffic to the auction site that resulted in purchases.

It seems that around just about every corner is another scam. And a recently released survey by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission shows that really is the case.

More than one in 10 adults -- some 26.5 million Americans -- were victims of fraud in 2011, the new study found.

The most likely place to become a fraud victim these days should come as no surprise. It's right here, online. Internet-based scams -- those accelerated by email, social media, online auctions and online classified ads -- topped the list.

The top 10 most commonly reported frauds and the estimated number of victims, according to the survey, include:
  • Weight-loss Products (5.1 million)
  • Prize Promotions (2.4 million)
  • Unauthorized Billing for Buyers’ Club Memberships (1.9 million)
  • Unauthorized Billing for Internet Services (1.9 million)
  • Work-at-Home Programs (1.8 million)
  • Credit Repair Scams (1.7 million)
  • Debt Relief (1.5 million)
  • Credit Card Insurance (1.3 million)
  • Business Opportunities (1.1 million)
  • Mortgage Relief Scams (800,000)

Fraud was not an equal opportunity crime. African Americans (17.3%) and Hispanics (13.4%) were more likely than non-Hispanic whites (9%) to be victimized, the survey found. In addition, those with less than a high school education were more vulnerable as were "consumers who were more willing to take risks and those who had recently experienced a negative life event." Negative life events include such things as divorce, death of a loved one and job loss.

This is the third time the FTC has released a fraud survey report. Previous reports were issued in 2004 and 2007.

Here are some tips from the FTC about avoiding online scams:

  • Be clear who you are really doing business with, and try to determine their track record of dealing with others.
  • Be wary of anyone you don't know who asks you to wire money. Wire transfers are the same as using case and it's next to impossible to recover money sent that way.
  • Stay on top of your monthly statements and look for charges you didn't authorize.
  • Use skepticism when someone claims you can earn a lot of money in an investment that is virtually a sure-thing.
  • Don't send someone money so that you can collect a prize, contest award or any other benefit that will supposedly come later.
  • Never send your personal or financial information to someone, or some company, that has emailed you, even if it looks legitimate. If the request comes from an entity you do business with, contact them at a number that you have, independent of what is in the email.

More from MSN Money:

Apr 22, 2013 7:40PM
The FTC should make the weight-loss scammers that are all over TV back up their claims with real science or be arrested for fraud.  There is no excuse for the inaction by the Feds.  There are too many desperate people out there looking for a way to better health.  If the Feds won't do it, the states' AG's should do it.  If some TV stations fail, so be it--there are too many phoney commercials out there!
Apr 23, 2013 7:46AM
Wasn't this part of the plan? I mean we cultivated personal privacy but when big business couldn't get to us any longer, compromising out RIGHTS was a solid business plan and acceptable to Congress. Notably, Congress hasn't done one damn thing to uphold the Rights of People and the Supreme Court decided business entities have more Rights than People do. You know what we have to do, people. It isn't rocket science. We will miss some of the cheese but it vanquishes all of the sleaze.
Apr 22, 2013 8:24PM
Who cares about all these scams? The worst fraud perpetrated on the American people is sitting in the White House and he's doing far more damage than all the weight loss, work-at-home and debt relief scams combined.
Apr 23, 2013 11:09AM
Apr 23, 2013 11:45PM
who are these idiots that don't have a clue how to proof read? is msn so pathetic the have to hire illiterate morons?

what the ****  is "case"?
Apr 23, 2013 12:51AM
A job offer from Kimberly Clark...
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