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Better Business Bureau reports phishing scams in St. Louis big in 2017

Better Business Bureau

Consumers in the St. Louis region reported losses of nearly $200,000 to the Better Business Bureau last year due to scams.

The non-profit said its online Scam Tracker recorded 953 scams throughout the area in 2017.

About a quarter of those were phishing attempts. Phishing is when someone uses email, phone calls or text messages to try to get money or personal information from an intended victim.

Chris Thetford , BBB vice president of communications, said there were 233 phishing attempts reported in the region last year. However, the financial losses involved were fairly minimal.

“While it accounted for 25 percent of reports, the dollars lost were not significant when compared to things like lottery scams and online purchasing scams,” Thetford said.

The largest single scam, he said, fell into the sweepstakes/lottery/prizes category. It involved a Mehlville woman who was asked to pay a 1 percent fee to receive an $8.5 million lottery prize. She lost $85,000.

The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker saw reports of scams jump about 75 percent between 2016 and 2017. Thetford said the increased activity may not indicate an actual increase in scams. Rather, it could be that consumers are reporting them more as they become aware of the online tool.

He said the tool allows consumers to report attempted scams, as well as view a “heat map” that shows where scams are being reported. Users can search through filters to see the types of scams or where exactly they’re occurring.

“So if you’re wanting to know what’s happening in Alton, you can gear down to that level,” Thetford said.

The tracker allows users to see how much money has been lost, as well.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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