Unless you harbor some sort of digital death wish, you've undoubtedly spent time worrying about the ever-multiplying ways high-tech scammers can make life miserable by stealing your money, creditworthiness or identity.
Forewarned is forearmed, so here are some of the hottest scams to be aware of this summer.
Infant Identity Theft
One of the latest jaw-dropping, sleep-robbing threats involves identity thieves targeting the inactive Social Security numbers of children, which they sell to help others establish phony credit and run up massive debts they'll never pay off.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), miscreants who purchase these Social Security numbers have little or no trouble opening accounts, since banks and other issuers of credit have no way to verify the age of an applicant.
And the identity theft is typically never discovered until the parent tries to open a college savings account, the child starts receiving letters from collection agencies, or even years later, when the then-teen applies for a driver's license. The ITRC's website contains a helpful fact sheet outlining the problem along with advice for victims of child identity theft.
Thanks to the stagnant economy, many timeshare owners are desperate to unload their properties, and more than a few are finding themselves victims of the latest scam to hit this troubled industry -- phony sales agents.
These scam artists approach timeshare owners anxious to sell and demand upfront payments -- often $1,000 or more -- to locate a buyer for the timeshare. But instead of finding a buyer, they just take the money and run.
"We know that the tough economy has made it difficult for share owners to resell, so they are turning to outside agencies to act as a broker," Attorney General Richard Cordray said in a statement. "They are paying sometimes thousands of dollars in upfront fees to companies that promise to sell, but then do not."
For more information and advice from the Federal Trade Commission on avoiding the time-share scams, click here.
Fake Auto Dealer Websites
Buying a car without getting fleeced is stressful enough, but a new scam has consumers kicking more than tires in at least seven states.
A slew of phony websites claiming to be those of real car dealers have scammed buyers out of down payments and cars in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas. Both dealer and buyer are victims of this scam, which has produced more than a thousand calls to the Better Business Bureau from angry consumers to bewildered dealerships, sometimes after money is wired across country.
The scammers create temporary websites based on information from legitimate dealerships that they leave up for a few days or weeks before taking down. Prospective buyers -- and dealers -- find out there's a rip-off when buyers try to make arrangements to pick up the car, usually advertised as repossessed.
For more information and tips on avoid this scam, click here.
The Busy Signal Bank Scam
If your phone is suddenly swamped by pre-recorded ads, phone sex menus or dead air, you may be the victim of a new scam aimed at emptying your bank account.
According toe the FBI, these "telephone denial-of-service" attacks are similar to ones used by hackers for years to crash websites by flooding them with Internet traffic.
But high-tech criminals are now using automated dialing programs and multiple accounts to overwhelm phone lines. And while the lines are busy the fraudsters -- impersonating the victims -- raid their bank accounts, online trading and other money management accounts.
The FBI says one Florida dentist lost $400,000 from his retirement account after a denial-of-service attack on his phones.
Senior Citizen Scams
One of out every five citizens 65 or older -- more than 7.3 million Americans -- have been swindled, according to a recent survey released the Investor Protection Trust (IPT).
The scams include health-care fraud, where con artists ask seniors to send them their Medicare card so they can replace the card with a new one, falsely citing changes in Medicare as the reason. Seniors are also frequent targets of Ponzi schemes, when someone claiming to be an investment adviser or promoter offers them a return too good to be true.
Granny scams involve phone calls to seniors from someone posing as a grandson or granddaughter claiming to be in trouble and in need of quick cash. Sweepstakes scams arrive in the form of a letter or e-mail claiming a senior has won the lottery or sweepstakes, but needs to mail or wire funds to prepay the taxes on the winnings.
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