Online Purchase Scams are the Riskiest Type of Fraud, According to 2017 Data from BBB Scam Tracker




Online purchase scams are now the riskiest form of consumer fraud, according to a new report from the Better Business Bureau, the 2017 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report: New Trends in Scam Risk. In 2017, people reported more than 47,000 scams to BBB Scam Tracker. BBB analyzed this information using its unique BBB Scam Risk Index to determine the riskiest scams based on exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. The findings, released for National Consumer Protection Week, show some significant trends in comparison to 2016:


  • Tax collection scams decreased 60% in volume of reports, likely due to the arrest in India in 2016 of a the ringleader of a network of call centers primarily responsible for the IRS scam.
  • Online purchase scams jumped from the 4th riskiest scam to the top spot, likely due to an increase in exposure. The most common online purchase scams reported were related to pets, clothing, cosmetics, electronics and automobiles. Especially throughout Western PA, BBB has recognized an increase in online puppy scams targeting local consumers.
  • Government grant scams and travel/vacation scams joined the top ten list, with Orlando/Florida, Disney, Mexico/Cancun and the Bahamas being the most prevalent destinations mentioned in the scams. Two scams left the top ten list: romance scams and sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams.
  • The overall median monetary loss to scams decreased 17% to $228. Young people continue to be at higher risk for scams, and susceptibility decreases with age. However, dollars lost increases when victims are older.


“Although we saw an increase in total scam reports in 2017, susceptibility decreased by 3%, alluding to the positive influence programs like BBB Scam Tracker have had in educating the marketplace on fraud,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau serving Western PA. “As the scam landscape continues to evolve with the ever-changing digital space, insights provided by Scam Tracker are critical to understanding the full impact of scams and best ways to prevent them.


The top ten riskiest scams in 2017 were:


  1. Online purchase scam
  2. Investment scam
  3. Employment scam
  4. Advance fee loan scam
  5. Fake check scam
  6. Home improvement scam
  7. Tech support scam
  8. Travel/vacation scam
  9. Family/friend emergency scam
  10. Government grant scam


Regardless of the scam, scammers often rely on the following tactics:


  • The promise of getting a “great deal” (which is often too good to be true);
  • Pressure to respond immediately with offers that are time sensitive and prices that “can’t be guaranteed;”
  • Impersonation, where the scammer pretends to be a legitimate business or resource that is well known and trusted by the consumer;
  • Intimidation (for example, “You are under federal investigation”; “You will be arrested within one hour unless you call this number”); and
  • Isolation, which aims to force a decision without others’ opinions.
  • Initiating contact through a phone call – Though susceptibility for monetary loss on websites is higher than phone calls overall.


Scammers are clever and are always adjusting their tactics, so everyone is vulnerable. Scammers can also be very nice and personable, which can defy “bad guy “stereotypes and make targets more at risk. BBB Scam Tracker is helping to identify higher risks and debunk long-standing myths, but no one should let down their guard. For more information on specific scams and tips on how to avoid them, go to To report a scam, go to



ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Western PA was founded in 1931 and serves 28 counties in Western PA.