NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Whether it’s a phishing email or a hacked computer, con artists love using technology to rip people off.
But a new report from the Better Business Bureau found the riskiest scams are often very low-tech, CBS’ Meg Oliver reported.
Last year, Iraq war veteran Peter Webster hired a contractor to renovate his home, handing over $14,000 at the start of the project.
But the contractor only did a little bit of work before disappearing — and keeping the deposit.
“The monies that we had to finish the home and now we’re kind of back to square one with nothing,” Webster said.
Emma Fletcher, of the Better Business Bureau, co-authored a new report on the riskiest scams and found home improvement cons rank number one.
“The truth is this can happen to anyone,” Fletcher said.
Other top rip-offs include employment scams and fake check scams, also known as overpayment scams.
Jordan Lyle was a victim of one of these scams last year. After turning to the Internet to search for work as a nanny, a single mother responded to her post, sending a picture and offering to pay her $1,900 up front.
“She said, ‘I need you to take out the money and then go deposit it into another bank’ and that’s where I thought this is weird,” Lyle said.
In an overpayment scam, a con artist sends a check and asks the victim to deposit it, often offering the victim to keep a percentage and wire the rest back to them.
A few days later, the bank realizes the check is a fake, leaving the victim on the hook for the full amount of the check.
“Just because a check has cleared doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, it can come up as a fake and you’ll be out the money,” Fletcher said.
Luckily for Lyle, she became suspicious and never sent any money.
The Internal Revenue Service is also warning employees to beware of online W-2 phishing scams, where scammers masquerading as executives ask employees for personal tax data in order to steal personal information.
In Connecticut, scammers targeted several local schools, compromising important data for up to 1,300 employees, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
With your personal information in hand, scammers can open up credit cards, and even file fraudulent tax returns on your behalf.
IRS investigators recommend authenticating any suspicious email before sending over your information.
According to the Better Business Bureau, anyone can fall victim to a scam, but people ages 18-24 are the most likely to lose money.