Online scams up 87% since 2015, Better Business Bureau says

MILWAUKEE (WKBT) — Scammers shifted online over the past seven years.

According to a new report, scams being perpetrated online rose 87% since 2015. During the same period, scams perpetrated by phone dropped 42%.

“The methods scammers use to target consumers have shifted significantly since BBB began collecting scam reports from the public in 2015,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “The shift in scam tactics is driven by a range of factors such as the rise of social media, world events, and changes in consumer behavior. Our latest findings reinforce the guidance we’ve been giving consumers to help them stay updated on these tactics to avoid losing money to scams.”

The #1 place people reported being targeted by a scam was while browsing social media, followed by online shopping, email, search engine and job search.

How and where you search, research, and conduct transactions may impact your susceptibility to online scams. Tips for avoiding losing money to online scams:

  • If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Price was the top motivating factor for people who made a purchase and then lost money. Don’t shop on price alone.
  • Be careful purchasing sought-after products. Scammers offer hard-to-find items and highly sought-after products at great prices.
  • Before you buy, do your research with a trusted source. One of the best ways to avoid scams is to verify the offer and avoid making snap buying decisions.
  • Avoid making quick purchases on social media. 25% of survey respondents reported being targeted while browsing social media.
  • Use secure and traceable transactions. Avoid paying by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card, or other non-traditional payment methods.
  • Choose your online payment system carefully. Take some time to understand the rules around your online payment system; not all will reimburse money if you get scammed.
  • Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean it is. For example, if a business displays a BBB Accredited Business seal, you can verify its legitimacy by going to and looking up the company yourself.
  • Ask for verification and take time to do research with a trustworthy source. People who lost money to a scam were almost twice as likely than those who avoided losing money to say the scammer used impersonation as a tactic.
  • Be skeptical about anyone who reaches out to you unsolicited. Survey respondents told us scammers produced fake business cards, websites, credentials, ratings and more to convince them they were legitimate.