It was another million dollar plus year for us at 7 On Your Side's Consumer Unit. No matter how big or how small, we fought for refunds, services and products for our viewers and we also showed you dozens of ways not to waste your money.
The costliest lesson of 2018 caught home-buyers off guard - they were tricked into sending security deposits to the wrong banks during closing.
The 'man in the middle' scheme succeeds by hacking into emails and fooling buyers into believing their agents or attorneys switched the wiring instructions.
LESSON LEARNED: BRING A CHECK TO CLOSING!
Equally offensive, and just as expensive, phony, "YOU OWE MONEY" scams, targeted people of all ages. Students were convinced they owed the IRS for student loans, retirees were told they owed IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and other businesses money and went out and bought almost 20 grand in iTunes and Apple gifts cards and gave criminals the codes draining their savings.
LESSON LEARNED: NEVER BUY gift cards CARDS TO PAY OFF "DEBTS."
Plenty of you fell for an old, but new scam using social media. Many of you spent tens of thousands after being contacted through Facebook by con-artists posing as a friend and sharing info on 'government million dollar' giveaway loans, which were bogus.
LESSON LEARNED: NEVER PAY CASH TO MAKE CASH
Aside from the top 7 on your Side scams, we spent 2018 showing you dozens of ways to not 'waste your money.' We went undercover to show you flooded cars on the market and how to spot them, and we all learned how to read the exact age of tires - the series of numbers on the tire wall gives every tire a month and year 'birthday,' - who knew?
We also showed you how to spot phony Broadway and concert tickets, when we helped the NYPD take down a multi-million dollar fake ticket ring.
This year we also helped hundreds of you earn money by sharing tips on how to sell off old tech and home goods in your marketplace. Throughout the year, you helped us help you! With your security and smartphone videos, which caught people picking up packages, driving on sidewalks, smashing into cars and otherwise behaving badly. This ensured we could get money and action for you.
Other top lessons learned in 2018:
1) Never pay up front in full - If you hire a contractor, always pay in thirds with the final payment done when you are satisfied.
2) Hang up and verify - There are all sorts of phony phone calls fishing for info. If someone calls accusing you of owing a debt? CLICK.
3) Never wire money - The request for a wire transfer is the first red flag of a scam- once it's gone, it's gone.
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