In 2022, Coastal Bend consumers and businesses reported multiple scams to BBB, totaling $30,000 lost for the year.
Across Texas, BBB received an average of 250 scam reports per month totaling $1.9 million lost for the year. While the tactics of scammers often shift to take advantage of marketplace trends, online shopping, employment and phishing scams are the most common types of scams reported to BBB from Texas residents, accounting for 49% of all scams submitted to the organization for the year.
To help Coastal Bend residents avoid scams in 2023, BBB analyzed scam reports submitted by consumers with local ZIP codes to determine the top five prevailing scams in 2022 and provides a few tips on how to avoid them moving into the new year.
Share of reports: 22%
Amount lost: $9,795
Online purchase scams in Coastal Bend vary across a wide range of products, with some consumers losing over $1,000 on a single interaction. Online pet scams are particularly impactful in the area, with residents encountering fraudulent sellers when attempting to purchase Dachshunds, Corgis and Goldendoodles. In most cases, buyers are directed to send payment through an online payment system such as Zelle or PayPal. Other items residents attempted to purchase include ammunition, clothes and automotive parts.
To avoid online purchase scams, BBB recommends:
• Avoid too-good-to-be-true deals.
• Use credit cards for online transactions.
• Look up reviews on other websites.
• Check and verify there are multiple methods of contact such as a working telephone number and a real physical address.
Share of reports: 12%
Amount lost: $4,950
Employment scams often impersonate well-known and reputable businesses when contacting their victims. While these scams do not often result in a loss of money, the sensitive information provided to a potential employer places the applicant at an increased risk of experiencing identity theft. Scammers often entice applicants for the position by offering high wages, flexible hours and remote working opportunities. They often claim they will pay for the applicant to purchase materials to set up their home office or other work-related expenses. In the Coastal Bend, most reports revolve around car wrap, package reshipment or clerical and data entry positions.
To avoid employment scams, BBB recommends:
• Beware of unsolicited or immediate job offers and rushed interview processes.
• Insist on communicating with the hiring manager outside of email or text.
• Verify the position is open by checking the official job board for the company.
• Do not deposit suspicious or overpaid checks, and do not send money back due to overpayment through gift cards, a wire transfer or other nontraditional methods.
Share of reports: 6%
Amount lost: $106
Recently, reports of sweepstakes, prize and lottery scams revolve around supposed winners of the Texas, national or other state’s lottery offering some of their winnings to strangers using ‘pay-it-forward’ messaging. To claim the winnings, the recipient is directed to a website where they input personal information so a check can be mailed to them. Other versions of this scam reported in the Coastal Bend include free products, such as construction equipment or other gifts, in exchange for taking a survey, as well as free travel packages. Victims who provide money do so under the impression they are paying for taxes, processing or other fees – something a legitimate sweepstakes company does not require.
To avoid sweepstakes, prize or lottery scams, BBB recommends:
• Do not provide any payment for a supposedly ‘free’ gift.
• Be especially wary of any emails from a lottery winner who is dividing their winnings across multiple people.
• It is uncommon to be selected as the winner of a sweepstakes that you did not enter. Verify how you were entered into the drawing and how they obtained your contact information.
• It is unlikely to be awarded a high-end or expensive item for taking a single survey. Trust your instincts and avoid too-good-to-be-true offers.
Share of reports: 4%
Amount lost: $227
Fraudulent and unethical businesses often capitalize on the popularity of name-brand items by offering products similar in appearance or name. When the item is received, the buyer is often left with an item that is of significantly less quality than expected and may not even appear the same as what was pictured in the advertisement. Some of the most counterfeited brands include Nike, Beats, LEGO, NFL and Tiffany jewelry. One Coastal Bend resident reported receiving an obvious counterfeit item when attempting to purchase Seresto flea and tick collars online.
To avoid counterfeit products, BBB recommends:
• Be cautious of name-brand products advertised at a fraction of their typical price at an authorized retailer.
• Pay close attention to the name of the product. For example, Beats by Dr. Dre is not the same as Beats by Dre.
• Beware of look-alike websites and double-check the URL domain and subdomain are accurate. Scammers often switch these to confuse buyers.
• Read product reviews and research the business on multiple sources. Keep in mind that product testimonials on a business’s website can be fabricated.
Share of reports: 4%
Amount lost: $600
Phishing scams are one of the oldest and most adaptable strategies used to obtain sensitive information from businesses and consumers. Often, these manifest as emails or texts from someone claiming to represent the fraud prevention department for a well-known company such as Amazon, Netflix or your local bank or utility company. They will often direct you to a link or website to verify your account details, but in reality, that information is being collected for their own purposes. Phishing scams continue to become more sophisticated and often include look-alike websites that makes detecting them even more challenging. In the Coastal Bend area, the most common businesses used in a phishing scam include USPS and local banks.
To avoid phishing scams, BBB recommends:
• Avoid clicking on any links provided in email and text.
• Verify account security by going directly to the official website or using an official app.
• Understand company or agency policies regarding what personal information they will ask for over email or phone.
• Remain calm when contacted about a potential account compromise and be wary of claims threatening immediate arrest, additional fines or impacts on your credit.
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim and helps BBB educate the public about scam tactics.