PITTSBURGH (KDKA Radio) - Holiday season is also scam season. Phishing scams, fake calls from the I.R.S., phony checks in the mail are all more common this time of year when consumers are already stressed about finances.
Better Business Bureau of Western PA President and CEO Warren King advises consumers to check out their online Scam Tracker.
"We can't go and arrest someone," says King." But we can provide the information. And we get between 50 and 60-thousand scams reported to us every year."
One of the latest is heartbreaking. Phyllis Hood of Latrobe says she and her husband lost $18,000, their entire savings, to scammers claiming to be U.S. Treasury officials. They had her purchase gift cards at local stores and read off the numbers to them as part of their investigation. She agreed not to tell anyone so the probe wouldn't be revealed. Her bank tells her they can't get the money back.
In another scheme, Mary Pegg of Brighton Heights received a letter in the mail with a $1,200 check. She said it looked valid but checked it out. It wasn't.
King says there are many more. "Close to 100,000 unique fishing scams are detected on web sites every month."
He praises a new Pennsylvania law set to take effect next month. The new robocalls law requires telemarketers to begin with a clear opt-out for consumers. It also bans robocalls on holidays. King says that's important because consumers typically can't get ahold of the Better Business Bureau, state Attorney General's office or other investigating agencies then. The law also creates a 'do not call' list for businesses.
A recent Federal Trade Commission study found that 43 percent of robocalls are scams. 23 percent are alerts or reminders. 20 percent are payment requests. Just 13 percent are actual marketing.