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Scam Busters: Top 10 Scams for 2014
Tuesday, January 7, 2014 6:50 AM

Scambusters.org has released its review of top scams in 2014, and this year, Scam Busters expects to see malware become a more significant threat than previously because of the increased use of smart phones and tablets.

Following is Scam Busters forecast:

  1. Phishing and ID theft. The bad news is that Scam Busters thinks the gap between this and other scams will widen, with newly digitized medical databases as well as corporate systems being key hacking targets, alongside continuing growth of social networking scams.
  2. Lottery and sweepstakes. No change here either. Seniors, often the most difficult to educate about this crime, are the prime target.
  3. Malware. Scam Busters thinks this crime will grow in 2014, moving up a place in their chart because of the increased use of smart phones and tablets. Security specialists suggest that half of all Android mobile devices have no security installed. This is such a threat it could even dislodge lotteries from the Number 2 slot.
  4. Bogus Internet sites and fraudulent online sales. Scam Busters doesn’t see any drop-off in this crime, and has only moved it down the chart because of the growing malware category.
  5. Hit-and-run scams. This category moves up a slot too because of the sudden surge seen towards the end of 2013 in bogus IRS and utility company payment demands. Also, as more people wise up to the risks of wiring cash, crooks have switched to demanding their money on prepaid debit cards, giving themselves some extra cash-gathering time before awareness of this new trick spreads. As always, this category can also be affected by any major natural disaster, which drives up charity scams.
  6. Grandparent/imposter scams. It's the simplicity of this one that makes it such a big earner for the crooks. Although phone calls remain a popular technique, crooks are switching to spamming millions of people using email address lists harvested from circulating messages, like jokes and pass-it-on requests. Delete those address lists before you forward.
  7. Economy-related scams. Expect to see a surge in reverse mortgage scams when older homeowners try to unlock some of the equity in their property as prices start to recover. Also, the trend towards self-employment, a big feature of the past few years, could spark a new round of work-from-home scams.
  8. Advance fee scams. Scammers never seem to run out of ideas for new ways of fooling people into sending them "overpayment" refunds or paying upfront for dubious services. There's no reason to think they'll run out of crooked inspiration in 2014.
  9. Investment scams. There seems to be little prospect of better interest rates for savers either, so they'll continue to hunt for higher returns -- especially in precious metals and currency speculation.
  10. Dating and sweetheart scams. The driver is the growth in dating site usage by older age groups, including those whose judgment may not be as sound as it used to be. Scam Busters reports that it is also seeing growth in bogus dating sites as well as crooked "sweethearts."

As always, though, there are plenty of actions you can take to increase your security and reduce your vulnerability to those top scams -- starting with commonsense and skepticism.