LOS ANGELES, Calif. /California Newswire/ — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of the Southland on Friday (Feb. 11) released a list of the top 10 scams and rip-offs of 2010. Distressed homeowners seeking loan modifications, job hunters, and those struggling to make money and get out of debt were common targets of fraudsters, hackers and deceptive businesses in this tough economy.

“With the economy still on the mend, scammers had a field day targeting struggling families who were looking for work and trying to make ends meet,” said Bill Mitchell, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Southland. The BBB of the Southland serves Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California. “While some of the most popular scams are perennial problems that have always plagued consumers, some new additions to the list are signs of our tough economic times.”

The list is based on complaints submitted to the BBB and on the reviews and public inquiries posted on TrustLink®, the BBB of the Southland’s website for consumer reviews, business profiles, and public investigations.

Scams tend to be underreported as victims are often embarrassed or do not go to the trouble of filing an official complaint with the BBB, even though they may call their BBB for advice. Although the BBB has extensive data on the volume of complaints filed against businesses, many scams are not actual companies, or may have stolen the identity of an existing, legitimate business, or the scam’s “product cycle” may be lengthy enough to slow down the emergence of complaints. Thus, TrustLink’s consumer reviews and its popular Ask The Community public forum provided a real time barometer of the schemes that plagued Southern California residents and consumers nationwide in 2010. Loan modification, debt settlement, and timeshare reselling dominated the questions posted by consumers on Ask The Community last year.

Following, in no particular order, is BBB’s list of top scams and rip-offs that took advantage of consumers and businesses in Southern California in 2010:

Loan Modification and Foreclosure Consultants – Scammers pitched “guaranteed” modifications, big principal reductions, forensic audits, leasebacks and other schemes, and faked their involvement with government programs – all for huge upfront fees. Thousands of homeowners desperate to save their homes signed up for these services and never received any help in return. Worse, many went on to lose their homes after waiting too long for assistance that never materialized.

Debt Relief and Settlement Services – BBB warned consumers in 2010 about debt settlement services. These companies’ debt relief plans are usually booby-trapped with large, front-loaded fees to themselves and potentially leave the consumer drowning in even more debt and legal actions. Complaints to BBBs about debt relief/debt settlement services increased by approximately 30 percent in 2010.

Debt Collectors – A criminal element of the already-abusive junk debt buyer industry saw fraudulent debt collectors using various methods of obtaining debtors’ information and then threatening consumers with lawsuits and other consequences to trick them into setting up repayment plans. The money paid out to went into the pockets of these scammers and not towards any debt reduction. Some of these scam debt collectors even put liens on people’s homes, creating huge problems for refinancing or resale down the road.

Timeshare Resellers – Complaints to the BBB about the timeshare industry—including deceptive resellers—increased by over 40 percent according to 2010 estimates. Timeshare owners who are desperate to get rid of their costly vacation property are being targeted by companies that claim they have an eager buyer. The company tells the seller they just have to pay up to several thousand dollars to cover fees. After paying the fees, the seller never hears from the company again. Scammers also engaged in corporate identity theft, pretending to be reputable timeshare resellers.

Job Hunter Scams – Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or social security numbers and requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job.

Work from Home Schemes – Some work from home schemes promise to teach the secrets to making money online, others claim you can make money assembling items at home or get paid to be a mystery shopper. Some victims even found that their opportunity to work from home was a job to fence stolen goods. The end result is that instead of getting paid, you can end up losing hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars.

Not So “Free” Trial Offers – Misleading free trial offers proliferated on the internet for diet supplements, penny auctions and money making schemes, resulting in thousands of complaints ever year. The free trial offers seem no-risk but complainants state they were repeatedly billed every month and found it extremely difficult to cancel.

Advance Fee Loan Scams – Advance fee loan scams prey on consumers and business owners who are struggling financially. It’s a perennial problem, and one that the credit crunch of the past few years has kept going. Victims are told they qualify for large loans but must pay upfront fees—often more than a thousand dollars. The victim wires money to the scammers, but never receives the loan.

Online Payday Lending – Payday lending has moved into the online shadows in recent years to circumvent state laws. Slick, ubiquitous advertising screaming “Get Cash Now!” lured thousands of cash-strapped consumers into an endless cycle of debt, often with no paper trail whatsoever.

Over-Payment and Money Mule Scams – Over-payment scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent, jobseekers, and sellers on classifieds or sites like Craigslist. The scammers overpay the amount for the services or products and then ask the victim to wire the extra amount back to them or to another fraudulent entity. Ultimately though, the check is forged and the victim is out the money wired back to the scammers.

Office Supplies – Sale by Deceptive Telemarketing – Hundreds of business people were bilked by office supply, equipment maintenance providers, or classified advertising scammers. These crooks took advantage of holes in the business’ purchasing procedures and tricked unsuspecting employees by falsely claiming to be a “regular supplier” or that the offer was “special” or “good for a limited time only.”

Consumers or small business owners victimized by a scam can contact their local BBB or file a complaint at Always research a business with BBB before you sign any contracts or hand over any money.

About BBB of the Southland, Inc.The Better Business Bureau of the Southland, Inc. is a non-profit organization serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California. The organization was formed in 1951 to promote truth in advertising and business self-regulation.The Better Business Bureau assists the public in resolving complaints against businesses and it uses that complaint experience to rate the reliability of businesses.In addition, the Bureau operates an alternate dispute resolution program which administers arbitration proceedings at no cost to consumers. BBB of the Southland also provides the TrustLink® website, which provides a review forum for consumers, online storefronts for businesses, and the popular “Ask The Community” public Q & A forum (see

Please visit for more information about the BBB of the Southland.