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Who is most likely to lose money in a scam? It might not be who you think

Emily Valla: BBB Alert
Emily Valla: BBB Alert

A new Better Business Bureau report cites surprising new data about who is likely to be more vulnerable than average to scams. The inaugural BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report found men to be more susceptible than women, and young adults are more likely to lose money.

The BBB watches for trends in scams and schemes. This report analyzed more than 32,000 reports made to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016. While there is no doubt that scams have gone high-tech, the riskiest scam is the face-to-face home improvement scam. Check scams run a close second.

Men were at a higher risk than women in seven of the top 10 scam categories. Consumers 18-24 are the most likely to sustain losses. But older consumers generally earn more and have higher median losses, partly because of the types of scams aimed at them.

The biggest takeaway is that no one is immune.

The BBB Risk Index measures three dimensions:

▪  Exposure: How likely are you to be exposed to the con?

▪  Susceptibility: If you are exposed, how likely are you to lose money?

▪  Monetary loss: If you do lose money, how much is it likely to be?

Exposure times susceptibility times monetary loss equals the risk index score.

The top five scams:

1. Home improvement

2. Fake checks and money orders

3. Employment

4. Online purchases

5. Advance-fee loans

By far, the scam most reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016 wasn’t any of these. It was the tax scam. However, consumers are savvy to this con and rarely fall for it, so it did not even make the index’s top 10. Employment scams were three times as risky.

Home improvement scams are the only category in the top 10 to rely on in-person contact. Because of the highly personal nature of this scam — someone literally at your doorstep — the exposure rate was low but the susceptibility rate and the median loss were both very high.

If you’d like to learn more, the full report is available at bbb.org/RiskReport. Consumers and businesses are urged to report all scams to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker, whether or not money is actually lost.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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