Consumers are confronting a record number of scams, including people posing as employers, online merchants and crypto/investment portfolio managers.
Texas residents have reported more than $4.3 million lost to scams so far this year – surpassing the yearly losses from 2018-2022, according to the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker.
“The amount of money going out the door and into scammers pockets is very concerning to us,” Jason Meza, senior regional director at the BBB, said.
Many of the scams are concentrated in cities such as the Fort Worth and Dallas area. In one report in Fort Worth on July 11, someone tried buying a dog from a Facebook requiring a deposit for $150. Once a payment was made through Zelle, the poster asked for more money for the dog’s vaccination.
“I asked him for the money back and he started acting confused and stated he would send it back,” the post said. “He never did. I reported to Zelle and my bank, but they were unable to do anything. I reached out to him (on) Facebook (Messenger) and email and phone with no success.”
The organization notes that these numbers are likely underreported. A 2021 Federal Trade Commission study shows only about 5% of victims of a scam actually reported to the BBB or another government organization. Scams can also be reported to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
So far this year, the majority of money has been lost from cryptocurrency and investment scams – more $1.6 million across 37 complaints, Meza said. They affected 35- to 44-year-olds the most. Typically, the scammer will pose as a trader and provide fake dashboards with results to convince the consumer the investment is doing well and convince them to put more money into the fake account.
“However, when the victim attempts to withdraw the money, they vanish, the trader disappears,” Meza said. “They charge additional amounts, withdrawal fees and communication stops.”
Employment scams were up 250% January through March – people posing as employers who take money or important personal information like Social Security numbers, said Devin Benavides, regional BBB director for the Permian Basin. The majority of those are coming from major cities like Dallas, Houston and along the I-35 highway corridor, Benavides said. A red flag for those scams are jobs that require payment to interview earlier or want financial information to buy work from home supplies for people, she said.
“Con artists using an employment scam will often impersonate legitimate or well-known companies to give that sense of security,” Benavides said.
Over the past five years, crypto/investment, online purchase and “other” scams like fake checks and advance fee loans resulted in the most lost money in Texas, according to BBB.
Online purchase scams are also on the rise with nearly $707,000 lost across 675 reports so far this year, said Amy Rasor, Fort Worth BBB regional director. That includes fake postings of pets for sale.
“Most of the time, these pets do not even exist,” Rasor said. “A lot of times, it’s even stock photos that people are using to ‘sell’ these animals.”
When in doubt, Rasor said, visit the pets in person and read reviews of the pet breeder or seller.
The BBB also recommends using credit cards when purchasing and avoid sellers who insist payment through gift cards, wire transfer or mobile banking apps.
“Scammers know that these payment methods are instantaneous and challenging to dispute,” Rasor said.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.