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Phishing Investigation: BBB tallies record number of reports as scammers adopt new technologies

MILWAUKEE — In 2023, phishing scam reports to BBB Scam TrackerSM nearly doubled, reaching a record high of over 9,000. Scammers appear to be adopting new technology and lean on text message-based scams to reel in new targets. 

Since 2021, reports to Better Business Bureau (BBB) show that scammers use phishing tactics in nearly every type of scam, including government impersonation, tech support and cryptocurrency fraud. In more recent reports, they are increasingly turning to SMS-based versions of these scams, sending messages meant to trick the public into clicking on links that prompt them to share personal information or download malicious software.

In “BBB Investigation: BBB tallies record number of reports as scammers adopt new technologies” BBB examines patterns of reports, reviews the amount of money lost and shares stories from those caught up in the scams so the public can avoid them.

Key findings:

●  Scam Tracker reports totaled over 9,000 in 2023, nearly double the previous year and a record high.

●  Reports in 2024 indicate another record year is likely incoming.

●  Phishing, despite being one of the oldest and most well-known scam techniques, continues to be successful, because of its adaptability to various forms of communication.

●  Phishing scams target both individuals and businesses, with business losses totaling in the billions over the last three years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and supported by BBB Scam Tracker reports.

●  Because phishing techniques change so often, it can be hard for the public and authorities to keep up with the ever-changing defenses needed.

Statistics (reported to BBB from 2021-2023):

●  Phishing (email): 8,346

●  Vishing (call and voicemail): 7,416

●  Smishing (SMS): 3,486

●  Pharming (malicious links): 315

●  Business Email Compromise: 200

Scam survivor stories: 

John in Bridgeport, Connecticut, said he has received hundreds of emails from a scammer pretending to be from Geek Squad, Best Buy’s computer repair service. While the contents of the message changed, each one attempted to steal personal information from him.

“I contacted Google about the issue to explain how I am trying to deal with the volume of messages from this address,” John told BBB. “I receive 20-50 emails a day from this address.”

Dawn in North Adams, Massachusetts, told BBB she received an email from someone who she thought was her boss with an invoice attached. In the message, he asked her to pay $4,500 by wire transfer. Dawn did so and emailed him to say the task was complete. Her boss immediately called her, saying he never asked her to pay for anything.

“I was confused because we had talked about paying it previously,” Dawn said. “I didn’t notice the email address was a junk email address and not my boss.”

Red flags in phishing scams:

●  Claims about suspicious activity or fraudulent logins

●  Reaches out about unexpected problems with an account

●  Tries to confirm financial information

●  Requests to click a link to make a payment

●  Offers government refunds

●  Sends unasked for coupons

●  Uses generic message paired with logo of a well-known company

●  Speaks in typo-filled and urgent language

●  Pretends to be a known authority figure requesting a business payment 

Visit to check out a business or register a complaint, BBB Scam TrackerSM to report a scam and for more on this and other scams. 

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2023, people turned to BBB more than 218 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 5.3 million businesses, and 80,000 times for BBB charity reports on about 12,000 charities, for free at The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States and Canada.