10 Most Despicable Scams of 2010

Unfortunately 2010 was wrought with hundreds of scams from fake charities to Internet hoaxes but we’ve compiled a list of ten despicable scams that we want to be sure you are aware of and know how to protect yourself in 2011.

1. Gulf Coast Oil Spill Scams

The Gulf Coast Oil Spill of 2010 is a tragic environmental disaster.  What’s even more despicable than watching oil-covered wildlife die?  Finding out that you’ve “donated” to a scam claiming to help Gulf Coast clean up or even “paid” to be trained to volunteer to help with the clean up.  Oil spill related scams have been rampant and yes, despicable in 2010. The BBB has a page of resources to help those who want to help, to give wisely.

Beware of:  People offering you a clean up job, but asking for a fee for your training.

2. Photos of Chile Disaster Malware

Not only were there bogus charities claiming by email, by phone and by mail to be collecting money for relief for Chile, there were also hackers sending out “Photos of the Chile Disaster.” Would it be hard to not be curious about photos of the Chile disaster, delivered right to your email box?  What could be wrong with viewing photos?  After all, the sender (even though unknown) isn’t asking for money.  The problem is that when you download the attachment to view the Chile disaster photos you’re infecting your computer with malware.

Beware of: Photos from any popular news story sent to you through email from an unknown source.

3. The Chernobyl Children’s Charity

It’s not new but it’s still working and still despicable in 2010.  Thankfully there are genuine charities that provide ministry to victims of Chernobyl but unfortunately there are also a group of scammers who are preying on people’s sympathy, stealing their money and even recruiting naïve people to help them with their criminal activities.

The biggest earmark of this fake charity website is the phrase “Great Soul is above all.”  This fake website has stolen content from a reputable charity website including news stories and photographs.  Not only is the fake Chernobyl Children’s Charity NOT ministering to the injured, they are using the phony charity as a front for recruiting mules to help them move money.  They send out emails offering victims a “job” but are really offering them an opportunity to launder money for them.

Beware of:  Emails offering you a “job” at Chernobyl Children’s Charities.

4. IRS Internet Phishing Scam

What’s worse than actually hearing from the Internal Revenue Service?  Being targeting by an Internet scam claiming to be a request from the IRS.  Citizens are afraid to not respond to the IRS.  Ignoring the IRS can result in heavy penalties and criminal charges.  The IRS hoaxers are counting on victims being afraid to not corporate with the IRS. In 2010 it was actually a phishing scam aimed at collecting your hard earned money, tax-free of course.

Beware of:  Email request claiming to be from the IRS.

5. Facebook Scams

With the release of The Social Network, 2010 has been quite a year for Facebook and unfortunately for Facebook scams as well.  What makes Facebook scams really despicable?  Facebook scams really just seem too easy to pull off in large numbers and not only do you become a victim but then you spread the attack to all of your “friends.”  From the “2 Free boxes of Cheerios” to the “Disney’s Most Shocking Secrets” to the “Free Farm Cash from Zynga” Facebook scams, hoaxers are using Facebook for scams to infect your computer, spread viruses and phish for your personal information.

Beware of:  Request to fill out surveys and be careful what you “like” if you don’t personally know the poster.

6.  Your Package Can Not Be Delivered E-mails

Many people have received e-mails claiming to be from DSL, UPS or Fed Ex claiming that there package could not be delivered.  They ask you to download a label in order to claim your package and when you do your computer is infected with malware that will further victimize you.  This scam is particularly despicable during the holiday season when so many are mailing high numbers and packages.  Even people who are usually savvier can panic with concern that a gift is not going to arrive for a love one.

Beware of:  Any email claiming your package cannot be delivered.  Keep your mailing receipts and confirm status through the source on your receipts.

7.  South African World Cup Lottery Winners Scams

Another despicable scam in 2010 was the World Cup Lottery Scam.  People received emails from the “SOUTH AFRICAN 2010 WORLD CUP BID INTERNATIONAL LOTTERY.”  No matter that these people had never “played” this lottery or that it does not even exist.  Lucky winners were notified that there email address had been randomly chosen and they’d won 2 million dollars.  The catch?  They’d have to pay a small fee, usually around $800.00 in fees and taxes to claim there prize.

Beware of:  Any lottery winning notification that comes through e-mails.  Legitimate lotteries do not send notifications by email.

8.  Online Car Buyer Scams

Buying cars online has become more popular and scammers are taking advantage of consumers trying to get a good deal on a car online.  Scammers watched online car auctions and notified bidders that they had the highest bid.  You guessed it, when they sent the money to a fake source, they lost their money and the shot at the car too.  Here’s a true story of a car auction victim.

9.  Call This 900 Number to Claim Your Prize

Another despicable scam that has heated up in 2010 is the 900 number scam.  People have received a card in mail asking them to call a telephone number with a 900 prefix.  Who wants to miss out a great free prize?  The problem is that the 900 number phone call costs you money and the message is long, keeping your hopes high and stringing you along while they rack up charges to your phone.

Beware of:  Prize claiming centers with 900 numbers.

10. Haiti Relief and Recovery Scams

With the people of Haiti in such desperate need of help, the Haiti Relief and Recovery related scams are at the top of the most despicable scams list. The help Haiti hoaxes have come through phishing e-mails as well as requests on social networking sites, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

There are many legitimate charities working to rebuild the country of Haiti and relieve the Haitian people but none of them will solicit you for donations by e-mails.  Use CharityNavigator.org and the Better Business Bureau site at BBB.org to research Haiti charities.

Beware of:  Emails that say “Help the children of Haiti- donate today.”