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Saving a Buck: America’s worst scams

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The economy may be struggling but the fraud business is booming.

In fact, fraud and identity theft complaints are up sharply these days.

It seems scam artists are cleverly exploiting all kinds of new technology to rip you off.

Susan Feinberg was stunned to find out that criminals had raided her home-equity line of credit by pretending to be her.

She said, "We discovered that they had cashed checks for $17,000."

Susan isn't sure how the crooks got crucial information like her social security number and mother's maiden name but frequently people are fooled into sharing those details online.

Now Consumer Reports is revealing America's worst scams, many of which tap into ever-changing technology.

Consumer Reports Editor-In-Chief Kim Kleman said, "We've cautioned against phishing emails that trick you to reveal your personal information but now scammers have figured out how to lure you on your cell phone."

In this type of fraud, called “smishing,” a phony link from a major retailer appears in a text message offering, for instance, a $1,000 gift voucher.

The goal? Grabbing your information.

Even email phishing scams have become more sophisticated.

Some common fraud email disguises: a fake email to confirm a flight or even a fabricated invoice from UPS.

Old-fashioned scams also work.

Plenty still come in the mail, as a knock on the door or over the phone.

For instance, callers who say they're from a reputable company offer to slash your credit card interest rate or fix a computer virus they've detected.

All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive financial information.

“Bottom line: Never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out,” Kleman said.

To add insult to injury, people who are scammed can be targeted by another scam; crooks who promise to recover your stolen money.

They charge hundreds of dollars and don't recover your losses.

Fortunately, the bank agreed Susan was not responsible for the $17,000 stolen.
 She did set up a fraud alert with the three major credit-reporting bureaus.

Consumer Reports also recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.