There are plenty of scammers out there trying to con you into handing over your money or your personal information. In 2015 we saw scanners employ many methods from fear tactics, to claiming money rewards or winnings, all with the goal of convincing you that their cause is authentic.
Top 10 Scams of 2015
Scammers stuck with the tried and true this past year, according to the Better Business Bureau’s roundup of the top 10 scams of 2015.
“What scammers tend to do is use the same methodology and just change the pitch,” says Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “They glom on to whatever is topical because it sounds real.”
Topping the list this year was the Internal Revenue Service scam, in which a scammer pretending to be from the IRS duns you for nonpayment of taxes and threatens to arrest you.
The IRS scam accounted for nearly a quarter of all of the reported scams—more than the next three most common scams combined. The reason: It seems plausible. With so many of us having so many different accounts online, it’s possible to miss a bill or misfile a tax return, says Hutt.
“When a caller threaten to send someone to arrest you, people panic,” she says.
The lesson from all this: Be extra suspicious if someone tries to scare you, coerce you, or persuade you to give them money.
The Scam Countdown
1. Tax scams
Reports this year: 2,413
Percentage of all scams reported: 24
How it works: Someone claiming to be from the IRS calls to say you owe back taxes. The caller threatens to arrest you if you do not pay immediately, usually by money transfer or prepaid debit card. The caller ID is spoofed so that the call appears to be from a government agency or the police.
How to tell it’s a scam: The IRS never calls.
2. Debt collection scams
Reports this year: 835
Percentage of all scams reported: 8.3
How it works: Someone calls claiming you have an unpaid debt and threatening wage garnishment, lawsuits, or even jail time if you don’t pay immediately. The scammer often spoofs the telephone number of a government agency or law enforcement to amp up your fear.
How to tell it’s a scam: Debtors have rights and the caller may be breaking them. Be sure to know your debtor rights.
3. Sweepstakes, prizes and gifts scams
Reports this year: 811
Percentage of all scams reported: 8
How it works: You receive a call, letter, or email announcing you’ve won a prize. However, in order to receive the prize, you must pay a fee for delivery, processing, or insurance.
How to tell it’s a scam: You never entered the contest. “You should never have to pay money to claim a prize,” the BBB notes.
4. Tech support scam
Reports this year: 608
Percentage of all scams reported: 6
How it works: A “Microsoft technician” calls claiming to have detected a virus on your computer and promises to correct the problem remotely—for a fee. These callers are actually hackers trying to steal money or use your computer password to steal your personal information or implant malware in your system.
How to tell it’s a scam: You haven’t had any computer problems. And if you suspect there is a problem with your computer, take it to a trusted repair shop.
5. Government grants scam
Reports this year: 574
Percentage of all scams reported: 5.7
How it works: You receive a phone call, email, or letter saying that you’ve qualified for a government grant. In order to receive the grant, however, you are told to pay a processing or delivery fee, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
How to tell it’s a scam: You didn’t apply for free money. Note, the government doesn’t hand out free money that you haven’t applied for.
6. Loan application scam
Reports this year: 388
Percentage of all scams reported: 3.8
How it works: While researching loans, you see an enticing ad and click for more info. After filling out the application, you receive an email or phone call saying that your loan application has been approved but you must first send a processing fee, security deposit, or insurance payment. Not only is there no loan but if you follow the instructions, you’ve shared your personal information, opening yourself up to identity theft.
How to tell it’s a scam: Hover your mouse over the link before clicking; if the name doesn’t match the company advertising the loan, it’s a scam. If you do get scammed anyway, freeze your credit to prevent a criminal from opening new accounts in your name.
7. Credit card scams
Reports this year: 306
Percentage of all scams reported: 3
How it works: Someone posing as your credit card issuer calls to say you qualify for lower interest rates, or that he or she needs to verify a recent transaction. The caller asks for your credit card number and security code to “confirm your account details.” In fact, that data is used to steal your identity.
How to tell it’s a scam: A credit card company would already know your number. When someone asks for personal information, they’re usually scammers trolling for data.
8. Work-from-home scams
Reports this year: 261
Percentage of all scams reported: 2.6
How it works: You answer an online ad offering to pay you big bucks while working from home. In fact, it’s a front for stealing your personal information from your resume or employment form.
How to tell it’s a scam: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigate the business before sharing any personal data.
9. Fake check/money order scams
Reports this year: 242
Percentage of all scams reported: 2.4
How it works: Someone pays you more than you are owed for goods or services and asks you to deposit the check and wire the difference. The check is a fake and when it bounces, you’re out the money and the fee.
How to tell it’s a scam: You are not a bank, so the only reason for someone to ask you to act like one is to extract money from you.
10. Lottery “winnings” scam
Reports this year: 241
Percentage of all scams reported: 2.4
How it works: You receive a call, letter, or email saying you’ve won a large amount of money in a foreign lottery. In order to collect it, though, you need to pay upfront for taxes and fees.
How to tell it’s a scam: Such lotteries are illegal. Even if you receive a check as partial payment, the check will be counterfeit.
If you suspect you are a target of these or any other scams, don’t click on the link, don’t engage with the caller, and, above all, don’t rush into a decision.
“Take 15 minutes to check it out before you send money or share information,” advises Hutt. “That’s the key thing.”
SRC: Read the entire post here: www.consumerreports.org/money/top-ten-scams-of-2015