Last year’s biggest scams in Northern Michigan

What were the most prevalent scams facing Northern Michigan consumers in 2018? Here are the top 10.


The Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan has compiled the top scams of 2018.

Not surprisingly, scams using fake websites and online purchases were by-far the biggest of the year.

These scams accounted for more than 25% of all scams reported to the BBB ScamTracker in 2018.

“The numbers show just how careful customers need to be when shopping online” says Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan. “Scammers are doing a much better job building convincing websites and offers, and these scams are costing customers a lot of money.” Below is a look at the top 10 scams of 2018.

1. Online Purchase/Fake Websites- These scams take the top sport by a wide margin. Online purchase scams often feature a convincing website or online offer. However, customers who send in money are left without the product they ordered.

2. Debt Collections– Scammers hope to use fear to convince you to pay a debt they claim you owe. Often they say the police are on the way to your home, or a warrant will be issued for your arrest if you don’t pay right then and there. This is not true, and any money you give them will be lost.

3. Employment Scams- Offers to work from home for good money may seem tempting, but they are often scams. Victims of employment scams are often asked to buy supplies or other items necessary for the job. Other victims are asked to receive checks or items in the mail and forward them on to another address, turning the victim into a middle-man for the scammers.

4. Government Grant Offers- Calls or emails offer customers thousands of dollars’ worth of government grants. All the customer has to do is pay a service charge or similar fee. In most cases the government grant doesn’t exist.

5. Tax Collection- One of the most popular phone scams in America, the caller claims to be from the IRS and says you will be arrested if you don’t pay your back taxes. Customers should know the IRS will send several notices to taxpayers by mail first before any collection calls start. People who owe the IRS should already know they have a tax issue. If you are not sure the call is from the IRS, look up the number independently and call back.

6. Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam- Who doesn’t want to win millions of dollars? Unfortunately, if you didn’t enter the lottery, you didn’t win. Scammers claims victims need to send money to cover taxes or some other type of fee. However, no legitimate lottery will ask you to pay to get your winnings.

7. Tech Support Scam- Crooks claim there is a problem with your computer and they can fix it. This usually comes in a pop-up on your screen or an email. Once given access, they often put malware on your computer and either charge you for the “repair” or take control of your computer, holding it hostage unless you pay a ransom. If you think your computer needs a repair you should take it to person or business you trust to get the fix.

8. Fake Invoice- Sometimes all scammers have to do is ask for money. Businesses are the victim of this scam, in which a fake invoice is sent to the business for payment. Scammers hope that the business just pays the invoice with the rest of the bills and doesn’t notice.

9. Fake Checks- Victims are sent a check for more than is expected. This is often done as part of an employment scam or with purchases made online on websites like craigslist. The person is told to cash the check, keep some of the money and send the rest back or to another person. In reality the check is fake, and the bank later tells the victim they are responsible for repaying the entire withdrawal amount. Consumers should remember that just because the bank accepted the check does not mean it is real. It takes several days for the check to clear.

10. Advance Fee Loan- In these scams the victim is promised a loan, but only after the victim pays a fee. As soon as the victim pays the fee, the scammers disappear.

In all cases, victims of these scams can protect themselves by taking their time and researching the person or company that is making contact. Don’t feel pressured to act right away. You can search for companies at, or search common scams through the BBB ScamTracker.