This Is America’s New #1 Scam

This Is America's New #1 Scam article image.

Americans reported one scam every 11 minutes on average, according to the 2017 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report: New Trends in Scam Risk.


The annual report analyzes the riskiest scams based on exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. In 2017, Americans reported more than 47,000 scams to the BBB Scam Tracker, which was a 46% increase over the previous year. And that's just what's reported.

An FTC study indicates that less than 10% of consumers victimized by fraud actually complain to law enforcement or to BBB. In addition, research from Nielsen Inc. estimates that for every one complaint or report that the BBB receives, there are at least 50 more cases of serious consumer dissatisfaction that never reach BBB.

Americans reported more than 47,000 scams in 2017, an increase of 46% percent over the previous year.

Online Purchase Fraud Ranked as the #1 Scam

Online purchase scams are now the riskiest consumer fraud type, according to the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. Online purchase scams jumped from the fourth-riskiest scam to the top spot, likely due to the overall increase in online shopping activity.

The latest data also noted that home improvement scams dropped from being ranked first in 2016 to being ranked as the sixth-riskiest scam. This was despite a number of natural disasters last year that bring out storm chaser scammers who traditionally try to take advantage of distressed people.

The BBB also reported that tax-collection scams decreased 60% in volume of reports, perhaps due to the arrest of a network call center ringleader in India believed to be responsible for the bulk of IRS scams in 2016.

The Top 10 Riskiest Scams in 2017

The BBB reported that even though the total number of scams reported increased 46%, the overall susceptibility decreased. Americans did lose less money to scams in 2017—15.8% were out cash compared to 18.8% in 2016. The average scam loss in 2017 was $228.

2017 Riskiest Scams
Type of Scam2017 Ranking2016 RankingChange in Rank
Online Purchase Scams14+3
Investment Scams26+4
Employment Scams33-
Advance Fee Loan Scams45+1
Fake Check Scams52-3
Home Improvement Scams61-5
Tech Support Scams78+1
Travel/Vacation Scams812+4
Family/Friend Emergency Scams99-
Government Grant Scams1011+1

How Does the BBB Determine Risk in Their Report?

The BBB determines what scams are riskiest by calculating:

  • Exposure: the likelihood a consumer will to be targeted by a specific scam
  • Susceptibility: the odds money is lost when exposed to a scam
  • Monetary: how much money will likely be lost if you do lose money from a scam

Scammers and thieves are always going to look to adjust their tactics and take advantage of everyone. Read more about the top scams so far in 2018 and how to protect yourself from identity theft.