BBB in Michigan reveals the Top Scams of 2021

(Photo supplied/Indiana News Service)

The top scam of the year in Western Michigan was online purchase scams, according to the Better Business Bureau. Specifically, pet scams. The biggest mistake consumers across the BBB’s 38-county coverage area made was purchasing a pet online without seeing the animal in person first. This is the only way to avoid pet scams. Scammers create fake breeding sites and post pictures found on the internet in order to entice consumers to make a purchase without verifying that the animal is real.

“You should never give anyone money for an animal until you see it with your own eyes. That is the only way to know it is real and not a scam,” says Lisa Frohnapfel, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “The scammers find a number of reasons to keep you paying, and the dog never arrives. This hurts people on two levels. Victims often tell us they are more upset about not getting the dog than the money they lost.”

The second most popular scam of 2021 were phishing scams. Consumers received emails and phone calls from scammers posing as legitimate organizations, asking for personal sensitive information. The most popular business mimicked in 2021 was Amazon. Consumers were often told they had large purchases made on their Amazon Prime accounts and the products were being shipped to an unfamiliar address. Consumers were given the option to “fix” the issue by sending gift card payments, or sharing personal sensitive information over the phone.

Sweepstakes/Lottery scams and Employment scams tied for the 3rd spot on our list this year. Most of the sweepstakes scams involve scammers posing as Publisher’s Clearing House. The scammers call consumers or send letters in the mail claiming the consumer has won a prize, and must follow up with more personal sensitive information and/or money to receive their winnings.

During the pandemic, consumers were solicited for easy jobs they could do at home. Victims of these employment scams were often approached by fake potential employers posing as legitimate companies, who set up immediate interviews through Google Hangouts or other video chat services. Employees would be asked for personal information and would be charged up front for training costs and office supplies. The scammers will often send fake checks and ask that some of the money be forwarded to another party, usually through gift cards. Many of the positions involved package reshipment or secret shoppers.

Tips to avoiding the top scams of 2021:

Pet Scams

See the animal with your own eyes before giving anyone money.
Check for accredited breeders and shelters.

Phishing Scams

Never give your personal sensitive information to someone over the phone, or click on suspicious links from senders you do not know.
If you think an account is compromised, or there are charges you didn’t make, check by visiting the site directly and log into your account. Do not use the link or phone number provided by the potential scammer.

Sweepstakes/Lottery Scams

Publisher’s Clearing House does not alert winners in advance. You will only know you won when someone shows up at your door with a giant check. You should not give personal information or money to anyone claiming you won a prize, especially if you did not enter the contest.

Employment Scams

If the job seems too good to be true, it is.
Be wary of sudden job offers from someone you don’t know.
Check the job listing on the company’s actual website.

If you are a victim or have been targeted by one of these scams, report it right away to

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