Better Business Bureau: Worst non-cyber scams of 2011

Jan. 14, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 13, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.

By Alan Bligh

As you know, the Better Business Bureau investigates thousands of scams every year, from the latest gimmicks to new twists on old schemes. In alphabetical order, here are the most prevalent non-cyber scams we saw in 2011: • Counterfeit check cashing scams (I am sure you are tired of hearing me preach about this one).

• Door-to-Door magazine scams.

• Hotel Identity theft scams

• Mark Zuckerberg sweepstakes scams.

• Mortgage relief scams.

• National automated clearing house association scams.

• Red light scams (this one is back this week using the name of the Department of Public Safety to scare people).

• Trade show scams.

That was some list. Most likely, you are familiar with most of these, others you are not.

OK, that was non-cyber scams. How about those cyber-based scams? Last year, several new and refurbished cyber scams attacked consumers' computers in an attempt to capture personal information and spread damaging viruses. The following two scams topped the 2011 cyber scam list:• Job application scams: Consumers received emails, visited websites and filled out online applications. Once through the first round of interviews, they were asked to provide bank information or to send money for a background check.

• Osama bin Laden viral video scams: Many Facebook users were enticed by their "friends" to click on videos alleging to show footage of Osama bin Laden shortly after his death. Once the link was clicked, malicious software was downloaded to their computers.

One thing we can be certain of - new ones will come to the forefront this year. Many will be developed because of forthcoming technologies.

Here is a United Press International story that is hard to believe. The old fake $1 million bill scam failed yet again, this time with a North Carolina man allegedly trying to use one at a Walmart store. A 53-year-old consumer of Lexington tried to pay for a vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven and other items totaling $476 with a $1 million bill.

Court records show employees at the Lexington store called police, and the consumer was later charged with felony counts of trying to obtain property by false pretenses and uttering a forged instrument. The police said, "It is kind of strange."

No kidding.

Every once in a while, someone tries to pass off a fake $1 million bill. For the record, the largest U.S. bill now in circulation is the $100 bill.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at



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