Consumer Reports: America's worst scams

Consumer Reports: America's worst scams »Play Video

The economy may be struggling, but the fraud business is booming. Fraud and ID theft complaints are up sharply.

Consumer Reports investigated scams and says that thieves are cleverly exploiting all kinds of new technology to find fresh ways to steal your financial identity.

For example, scammers have figured out how to lure you on your cell phone. In this type of fraud, called smishing, a phony link from a major retailer appears in a text message offering, for instance, a $1,000 gift voucher. The goal? Grabbing your information.

And e-mail phishing scams have gotten more sophisticated. Some look like an e-mail to confirm a flight or an invoice from UPS.

Old-fashioned scams also work. There are plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the door, or over the phone. For instance, callers who say they’re from a reputable company offer to slash your credit-card interest rate or fix a computer virus they’ve detected. All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive financial information.

To add insult to injury, people who are scammed can be targeted by another scam: crooks who promise to recover your stolen money. They charge hundreds of dollars and don’t recover your losses.

Bottom line: Never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out. And set up a fraud alert with the three major credit-reporting bureaus. Consumer Reports also recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.