Bellingham: Home of Scenery, WWU and… Fraud?

Bellingham, Wash. | © Josh Parish / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0
Bellingham, Wash. | © Josh Parish / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0

From the City of Bellingham: On the shores of Bellingham Bay with Mount Baker as its backdrop, Bellingham is the last major city before the Washington coastline meets the Canadian border. The City of Bellingham is at the center of a uniquely picturesque area offering a rich variety of recreational, cultural, educational and economic activities.

But what lies beneath the surface?

Continuing Better Business Bureau’s analysis of the Federal Trade Commission‘s 2013 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, I am currently investigating an interesting statistic for 2013: Bellingham, Wash., is ranked #3 in the country for consumer complaints about fraud. Last week, BBB took a look at the total dollar amounts lost in Alaska, Oregon and Washington in the article What can Fraud Buy?, and this week I am particularly interested in how a relatively small city—population 82,310—beat out usual fraud hotspots like Miami, Fla.—ranked #17 in 2013—and Atlanta, Ga.—ranked #29.

Now, I’m not arguing that Bellingham isn’t a beautiful city with a rich culture and deep community roots, but what could cause such a high ratio of complaints in 2013? It’s important to note that this statistic is normalized, but the bottom line is that out of 100,000 people, 609 filed fraud complaints.

Typically, when I talk about the dangers of fraud it has to do with senior citizens. It’s an unfortunate fact, but seniors are the most-targeted demographic for scams and fraud because they have semi-disposable nest-eggs and are perceived as weak. However, Bellingham has a low population of seniors, with just 12% of the total population being over the age of 65. On the other hand, the population of 18-29 year-olds represents 32.5%—or about 1/3 of the total population of the city.

Initial conclusion: As more and more of the scams that BBB learns about evolve and become more advanced, younger demographics are falling victim.

So what can young adults do to protect themselves?

Remember, the best defense is a proactive one. Take steps to educate yourself and others so that Bellingham doesn’t make the list next year. Oh, and go Vikings!

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