Thursday, December 13, 2007

Greenwashers make BBB's scam list

Environmental fraudsters join identity thieves, fake health claims, Web ripoffs.

Andrew Duffy, Victoria Times Colonist. Published: Thursday, December 13, 2007

VICTORIA -- The names may change, but the scams remain the same.
That's how Valerie MacLean sums up the annual release of the year's biggest scams and fraudulent practices, this year entitled the Better Business Bureau's Dirty Dozen Scams.

"The scams seem to repeat year after year, but what changes is the method of transmission and how they get to you," said MacLean, executive director of the B.C. Crime Prevention Association. "Take greenwashing and carbon-credit fraud. The interesting thing about that is it's the usual fraudsters capitalizing on current events, and right now anything green is a hot topic...."

In some cases it's as simple as companies falsely claiming their products are green, or air travellers paying a premium to offset carbon usage, although there's often no proof anything is done once the money is paid.

"No one checks into them and where the money is going. Sometimes, it's just an outright money grab," said Mayo McDonough, executive director of the BBB on Vancouver Island.
Greenwashing made the list for the first time at No. 5 behind false health claims, identity theft, home-repair rip-offs and affinity fraud -- in which scammers gain the confidence of a group and gets them to invest en masse.

"We put greenwashing up high on the list this year because it's brand new, but I would say identity theft is the biggest one we hear about," McDonough said. MacLean agrees. "It can come back to haunt you years down the road, and it can take years to restore your credit."
The bogus cheque overpayment scheme came in at No. 6. This scam sees buyers sending fraudulent cheques or money orders for more than a product is worth, and asking the seller to send them the excess cash back.

No. 7, is Internet fraud, where websites and e-mails ask for personal banking information for nefarious purposes, and No. 8 is the well-known Nigerian letter scam where people are asked to send money with the promise of a big payout down the line.

No. 9 is the bogus charity scam where fraudsters create an organization that sounds legitimate but has nothing but greed on its mind. No. 10 is unscrupulous moving companies that use hidden fees or, in some cases, hold your goods hostage until you pay their new bill. And No. 11 is the resort vacation promotion where people are promised exotic packages for free or at low cost only to be hit with a slew of hidden charges and a trip that is anything but first-class.

Finally, No. 12 is debit and credit card skimming, which sees fraudsters stealing your PIN without your knowledge.

MacLean and McDonough say education is key and websites like theirs identify latest scams

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