What Can Fraud Buy?

A $2 million yacht; a $14 million rare Ferrari; a $36 million private jet. What do all of these expensive luxury items have in common? They represent things that could be purchased with the money that consumers in Alaska, Oregon and Washington lost to fraud in 2013—according to the Federal Trade Commission‘s 2013 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.

Alaska

1,951 Alaskans reported losing a total of $1,976,901 to fraud—about $1,359 per person. Alternatively, this amount could buy a very nice Mirage motor yacht.

Mirage Motor Yacht estimated price $2,000,000 | © Frank Schwichtenberg / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Mirage Motor Yacht, estimated price: $2,000,000 | © Frank Schwichtenberg / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Oregon

10,271 Oregonians reported losing a total of $13,607,902 to fraud—about $1,945 per person. Alternatively, this amount could be used to cover the cost of a super rare classic Ferrari 250 LM.

Ferrari 250 LM estimated price: $14,000,000 | Photo © User: ignis / Wikimedia Commons / GFDL,cc-by-sa-2.5,2.0,1.0
Ferrari 250 LM, estimated price: $14,000,000 | Photo © User: ignis / Wikimedia Commons / GFDL, CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0

Washington

19,927 Washingtonians reported losing a total of $36,282,700 to fraud—about $2,651 per person. Traveling the globe in a privately-owned Gulfstream G400 jet could be a much better way to spend this money.

Gulfstream G400 stimated price tag: $36,000,000 | Photo © User: Planephotoman / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Gulfstream G4, estimated price: $36,000,000 | Photo © User: Planephotoman / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

In total, 32,149 people in Better Business Bureau‘s service area lost almost $42 million to fraud in 2013—and these are just the ones that filed complaints. It’s likely that there are hundreds, if not thousands more, that did not report losses because they were embarrassed or did not know where to turn for help. While the total dollar amounts lost in Alaska and Oregon are down significantly, Washington consumers actually lost $10 million more in 2013 than in 2012.

The total dollar value lost in the United States: $1,304,031,000—that’s $1.3 billion. It is obvious that there is still major work to be done in educating Americans about these crimes.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Research businesses at bbb.org before making purchases or signing contracts.
  • Visit the BBB News & Events page for the latest scam updates, consumer alerts and marketplace trends.
  • Sign up for BBB’s monthly eNewsletter, Torch Report: News for the Savvy Consumer, for tips delivered right to your inbox.
  • Attend the next BBB Secure Your ID Day event—hosted at locations across the Pacific Northwest and Alaska—to shred old bank statements, medical bills and other sensitive paperwork. Statistics indicate that a large portion of fraud still occurs by physical methods—dumpster diving, mail theft, et cetera—so properly destroying unneeded documents is as important as ever.

Personally, I would love to see the day where the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book ceases to exist because no one needs to report any fraud, but until that day BBB will continue to provide free programs, services and events to help protect communities in Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. For the people who choose to ignore these warnings or avoid educating themselves about fraud, you can just send your money directly to me; I promise to put my new Ferarri to good use.

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