To help mark National Consumer Protection Week, which begins Feb. 28, here are the five most common scams in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
1. Imposter schemes. A con artist poses as a trusted person — such as a government official or a traveling grandchild — to hoodwink targets out of cash or information. Nearly 500,000 such schemes were reported to the FTC last year, with losses of $1.2 billion. Median loss per scam: $850. The FTC tracks identity theft in a separate category: A whopping 1.4 million identity theft complaints were reported last year, with government documents and benefits fraud topping the list.
2. Online shopping chicanery. These include undisclosed costs, failure to deliver on time (or at all) and refusal to honor a guarantee. More than 350,000 complaints were received, with losses of $245 million. Median loss per scam: $100.
3. Internet service bamboozles. Difficulty canceling an internet service provider or online account and undisclosed charges are a few of the scams that fall into this category. Roughly 124,000 complaints were received, with losses of about $170 million. Median loss per scam: $210.
4. Sweepstakes swindles. These include “prizes” for a fee and foreign sweepstakes and lottery offers by phone, fax, U.S. Mail or email. About 116,000 complaints were received, with losses of about $167 million. Median loss per scam: $1,000.
5. Phone flimflams. Unauthorized charges, charges for “toll-free” calls and misleading phone card offers are among the many scams that fall under this category. About 81,000 complaints were received, with losses of $32 million. Median loss per scam: $225.