by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Drumroll please….the Number 1 scam in the top 10 list for 2015 is…tax scams! The Better Business Bureau revealed that 24% of the first 10,000 scam reports processed through the BBB Scam Tracker was related to imposters pretending to be from the IRS. The remaining scams in the top ten were all some form of imposter scam including: debt collection, sweepstakes, tech support, and government grant scams.
The good news, 85% of those reporting scams to BBB recognized them as frauds before any money was stolen. Bad news, these scams still account for more than $1 million dollars lost from those who filed complaints with BBB. Here is a recap of the Top Ten and how they work:
1. Tax Scam: You receive a phone call from someone who claims to be with the IRS claiming you owe money in back taxes and will be arrested if you do not pay. The number on the caller ID is fake and appears to be from Washington, DC.
2. Debt Collection Scam: You receive a phone call from someone claiming that you have an unpaid debt and they threaten you with garnishments, lawsuits, even jail time if you don’t pay right now.
3. Sweepstakes/Prizes/Gifts Scam: You receive a call, letter, or email claiming you’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes and in order to receive the prize, you must send money to cover expenses associated with delivery, processing, or insurance. The prize is not real; you should never have to pay money to claim a prize you have won.
4. Tech Support Scam: 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 hackers are trying to steal money or sensitive computer passwords.
5. Government Grant Scam: You receive a phone call, email, or letter informing you that you qualify for a government grant. To receive the grant, you are instructed to send money as a processing or delivery fee, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
6. Advance Fee Loan Scam: While searching for loan information on the Internet, you see an ad and click through to the website. When you complete the application you will receive an email or phone call stating you are approved for the loan, but you must first send a processing fee, security deposit or insurance.
7. Credit Card Scam: The scammer pretends to be from your bank or credit card issuer, and claims you are eligible for a lower interest rate, or they want to verify a recent transaction. The consumer provides the scammer with their credit card number and security code for verification.
8. Work from Home Scam: Many people spend time looking for a job from home. While you may see ads promising you riches from a comfortable chair at your computer, they are all schemes to steal money from you. If you complete online applications you are at risk for identity theft, or you may end up as part of a criminal enterprise handling stolen merchandise for organized crime.
9. Fake Check/Money Order Scam: This one usually happens to individuals selling an item through an online service. You receive a check that is larger than the amount owed. Oops their mistake, but they know you are honest so just cash it and send them the difference. The check is a fake and when it bounces, you are out the money.
10. Grandparent Scam: You receive a call from an individual who says they are your grandchild. They assume any name you use to identify them and begin a story about being in jail in a foreign country and needing money. You have to keep it a secret. If you get a call like this, immediately check with family, do not believe the caller. Never keep secrets and never wire money overseas.
Remember, scammers are skilled, trained individuals. This is their job and most of them are very good at their chose profession. They will work to build a relationship with you. They will confuse you by sounding legitimate maybe with fake websites, social media posts or emails that look like they come from friends and family. They will also get angry and threaten you and your family with bodily harm.
What can you do? First, stop answering your telephone and screen all your calls. Better to miss a few calls than to get involved with these thieves. Other ways to save yourself are:
• Do not respond to pressure tactics. Take time to research the organization. Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
• Never provide your personal information to strangers who call you on the phone.
• Do not click on links from unsolicited email or text messages. If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
• Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you do not know or have not met in person.
• Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can first verify there is an actual emergency.