The thought of being scammed may conjure up stereotypical images of greasy-haired guys with a trenchcoat full of watches; however the most costly scams are less obvious.
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection releases Utah’s top 10 list of consumer complaints annually as part of National Consumer Protection Week. This is an effort to make Utahns aware of popular scams. Along with the list of complaints are details about how these scams are normally executed.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Utah reported 9,907 complaints in 2012. The categories with the most complaints are what make up the top 10 list. The list included deceptive practices with coaching services, deposits and refunds, retail sales, internet offers, talent offers, telemarketing, personal services, alarm systems, auto repairs and home improvements.
According to Traci Gundersen, director of Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection, 26 percent of complaints have to do with coaching services. This type of scam offers business opportunities to the consumers for a large sum of money, promising a huge profit with little return.
Along with the cautions of the top 10 list, Gundersen also cautioned against wiring money to another person.
“Never wire money to somebody you don’t know,” Gundersen said. “It’s usually a scam and there is no legitimate reason that you would need to wire a company money.”
A common way this scam is executed is through email. Maren Bateman, a freshman from Hillsboro, Ore., said she has received emails from friends’ addresses asking her to wire them money because they are trapped in a foreign country without a cent. While she has never fallen for the scam, the frequency of the emails is cause for concern.
“The thing is, people keep doing it so it makes me wonder who keeps falling for it,” Bateman said.
Gundersen said the main purpose of National Consumer Protection Week is education so fewer people fall for common scams.
While the focus of the week is protecting consumers, it’s important to realize businesses aren’t the only groups capable of scamming people.
Kara Lohberg, a senior from Marysville, Wash., studying political science, said people have tried to scam her at a movie theater she worked at in Washington. Lohberg said that while she was working the box office people tried, multiple times, to confuse her and co-workers by trying to get change for larger bills.
She has never fallen for it but said if she had she would have been written up at the end of the day for her till being short. Through these experiences she said she sees the importance of creating awareness about scams.
“It’s easier to not get scammed if you know the medium through which they’re going to scam you,” Lohberg said.
Even if people know what kind of scams there are, people still fall for them, which is why there are consequences for business who engage in these practices. Gundersen said Utahns can report business scams to the Division of Consumer Protection, which will assign an investigator to the case. If the complaint is valid there is a $2,500 fine for the violation. The division will also work to get restitution for the victim.
For the complete top 10 list of scams in Utah, visit www.commerce.state.ut.us/releases/12-03-05_dcp-national-consumer-protection-week.pdf.