John "Dr. John" D'Ambrosio speaks to the Kiwanis Club of Florence on Thursday afternoon at the Florence Country Club.

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Better Business Bureau estimates that scams cost Americans $50 billion per year.

However, as John “Dr. John” D’Ambrosio told the Kiwanis Club on Thursday afternoon, that number is likely even higher. He said many Americans are ashamed and embarrassed, thus not very likely to report that they were taken advantage of. D'Ambrosio is president of the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina.

He spoke about a report of a recent scam involving pizza restaurants in Huntsville, Ala. He said a person came into the restaurant and asked to use the business’s phone because of some emergency. The number that person called rerouted all the calls from the business to a scammer’s line.

Then, when people call in to order a pepperoni and pineapple pizza, the scammer gets access to their credit card information.

Another scam involves an online romantic relationship. In that scam, the person being scammed is asked to provide cash to help pay medical expenses not covered by the Army or another business.

“This is someone you love,” D’Ambrosio said.

Employment scams are also fairly common.

D’Ambrosio said someone will advertise a work-at-home job. Then collect the information of those that apply and are “hired” for the job so that paychecks and other information can be sent to the employee.

The No. 1 tip D’Ambrosio offered for those trying to avoid being scammed is not to answer the phone.

Other tips offered by the Better Business Bureau include never sending money to someone without a personal relationship, not clicking links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails, being cautious with someone met online, never sharing personal information with anyone, not being pressured into acting immediately, and being cautious with what is shared online.

D’Ambrosio also recommended doing business locally.

The Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker breaks the success of scams into age groups.

According to its research, younger Americans are more likely to be taken advantage of, but older Americans lose more money to scams. The research indicates that 42.4% of those 18-24 are susceptible to a scam compared to 20.8% of those 65 and older. However, the average loss for an 18-24-year-old is $92 compared to $400 for those 65 and older.

Eighteen- to 24-year-olds are most susceptible to employment, fake check/money order, and online purchase scams. Those 25-34 are also most susceptible to those scams but they are more susceptible to online purchase scams and less susceptible to fake check/money order scams.

Home improvement and advance fee loans, along with online purchases, are the scams that Americans 35-44 are most susceptible to. Employment, home improvement, and online purchase scams top the list for those 45-54. Romance, investment, and employment scams are the top scams for those 55-64. And those 65 and older are most susceptible to investment, travel/vacation, and tech support scams.

According to the Better Business Bureau’s information, the most impersonated brands are the IRS, other federal government agencies, Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Cash Advance/Advance America, the Canada Revenue Agency (the IRS equivalent for Canada), Facebook, and Ray Ban.

D’Ambrosio has been the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina Inc. since 2016. The organization serves over 1,300 accredited businesses within 15 counties in North Carolina and South Carolina, including Florence County, with an office in Conway.

The Better Business Bureau nationally was formed in 1970 by the merger of two earlier Better Business Bureau organizations formed in 1912 and 1933. Its vision is “an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other.”

Kiwanis International, a service club, was founded in Detroit in 1915. The Kiwanis Club of Florence was established in 1920 as the first Kiwanis Club in the Pee Dee region. The club meets on Thursdays at the Florence Country Club.

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Government and Poltics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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