Varied and sophisticated, schemes by con artists have become more common than ever—and the most popular type this year were tax scams, according to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) list of Top 10 Scams in 2015. Tax scams garnered more than 2,400 complaints this year from individuals duped by fraudsters posing as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or the Canadian Revenue Agency.
The scenario plays out like this: You receive a phone call from someone who claims to be with the IRS or the CRA. They claim you owe money in back taxes and will be arrested or face legal consequences if you do not pay (usually by wire or prepaid debit card). The caller ID is spoofed to appear to be a government agency or the police.
Debt collection scams, which entail a phone call from someone claiming you have unpaid debt, came in second on the list. The caller will usually threaten wage garnishments, law suits or even jail time if you do not pay immediately.
Third on the list were scams linked to sweepstakes, prizes or gifts, which involve a phone call, letter or email claiming you’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes. In order to receive the prize, you are instructed to send a fee to cover expenses associated with delivery, processing or insurance.
“Scammers are all basically imposters,” says Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Three of the top four scams reported to us are those that scare people with threats of arrest, lawsuits or other frightening actions. Scammers are pretending to be government agents, lawyers, debt collectors and police officers. They engage directly with you, so your best bet to avoid being scammed is to stop engaging, hang up the phone, delete the email and shut the door.”
Rounding out the top 10 list of scams are:
Tech Support Scams
– You are contacted by “technicians” claiming to have detected a virus or security threat on your computer, and, for a fee, can log in and correct the problem remotely. These callers are actually hackers trying to steal money or sensitive computer passwords, or damage computers with malicious software.
Government Grant Scams
– You receive a phone call, email or letter informing you that you’ve qualified for a government grant. In order to receive the grant, however, you are instructed to send money as a processing or a delivery fee, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
Advance Fee Loan Scams
– While searching for loan information, you see an enticing ad and click through to the website. You fill out an application and soon receive an email or phone call advising that you are approved for the loan, but you must first send a processing fee, security deposit or insurance. You pay the “fee,” but never see the loan.
Credit Card Scams
– The scammer pretends to be from your bank or credit card issuer, and they claim that you are now eligible for a lower interest rate, or that they need to verify a recent transaction. The consumer provides the scammer with their credit card number and security code to “verify” their identity.
– While looking for a job online, you answer an ad for making big bucks while working from home. The job may be stuffing envelopes, posting advertisements, or shipping packages. You could have your identity stolen when you fill out the employment forms, or even end up handling stolen merchandise.
Fake Check or Money Order Scams
– This can happen any time someone is paying you for goods or services, even when you are selling something online. You receive a check in the mail that is larger than the amount owed, and you are asked to deposit the check and wire the difference. The check is a fake and when it bounces, you’re out the money.
– You receive a call, letter, or email advising that you have won a large amount of money in a foreign lottery, but you have to pay upfront for taxes and fees. Such lotteries are illegal. Sometimes you may be sent a check as partial payment, but the check will be counterfeit.
To ward off these types of scams and others, the BBB recommends the following tips:
• Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
• Take time to research the organization.
• Never provide your personal information to people you do not know.
• Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
• Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
• Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.
Published with permission from RISMedia.