OGDEN -- Residents of the Harrison Regent nursing home who were deluged with fraudulent phone calls about Social Security two weeks ago will probably not be happy that their scam is only the fifth-most popular in Utah last year.
Because the caller claimed to be from the Social Security Administration, the scam ranks below "bank and lender" scams (fourth), but above "Internet services" in popularity last year.
The Utah Department of Consumer Affairs issued two lists of "top 10 consumer complaints" last week as part of National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10.
One list shows how many times Utahns reported a particular type of scam or fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. The second shows the types of fraud the Utah Department of Consumer Affairs has dealt with in the past year.
Heading the FTC list was debt collection scams, with 1,312 complaints from Utahns who'd been victimized by illegal or fraudulent debt collection attempts.
Second on the list was fake prizes and sweepstakes offers, typically over the Internet but sometimes by telephone.
More than 700 Utahns reported such scams last year. Usually, prize scams involve an email or telephone call telling the recipient that he or she has won some huge foreign lottery. The caller then asks the victim to provide bank account information and some up-front money to pay handling charges and taxes.
The Utah list is similar. Heading the list of frauds the department deals with most are e-commerce and Internet offers, which made up 42 percent of the complaints the division received.
These include situations where a buyer using a computer made a purchase and then had money taken out of a bank account that was not approved, or had some sort of automatic billing set up that they did not approve.
As if to underscore the need for more awareness, a couple of hours after it sent out the list of its Top 10 scams on Monday, the Division of Consumer Affairs sent out another news release warning of a new version of a mobile phone scam.
This one could either be eighth on the list (text and mobile phone services), second (prizes sweepstakes or lotteries) or fifth (imposter scams), depending on how you look at it.
The new warning is for Utahns getting text messages on their cellphones saying the recipient has won a $1,000 Walmart gift card.
To claim the prize they have to go to an Internet website and enter a code word.
The Division of Consumer Affairs checked the site and found that if you enter the code word, the website automatically downloads software to your computer that records every keystroke you make. This lets hackers record bank account information, passwords and other private financial data.
The scam that hit the Harrison Regent was a typical telephone fraud scam.
At least five residents of the home got phone calls, allegedly from the Social Security Administration, warning that the SSA's computers were going to be down for six months and asking for bank information to give them their regular payments directly.
Most of the residents hung up, but one did give the caller her bank information before realizing the call was fraudulent. She immediately notified her bank.
The Division of Consumer Affairs list also includes fraudulent practices that go beyond Internet or cellphone frauds.
* Coaching services -- typically business opportunities in which buyers invest in training on how to run a business that fails to pay as advertised.
* Retail sales -- including failure to deliver products or failure to honor refunds or warranties.
* Alarm systems -- often sold door-to-door with aggressive sales tactics.
* Home improvement and repair -- usually involving failure to complete the work, substandard work or refusing to finish work until more money is paid.
For more information on consumer fraud or to file a complaint, call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 801-530-6601 or log on to: www.consumerprotection.utah.gov