From the classics to the innovative, this top ten list includes the most popular scams and fraud schemes of the year with some new additions to look out for in the coming months!
#10 Sweepstakes Scam: You’ve won a contest! Or the lottery! Or the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes! All you have to do to claim your prize is to pay some fees or taxes in advance so they can release your prize… This is not a new scam, but it is a perennial problem.
#9 Romance Scam: Romance scammers contact their victims through online dating websites or sometimes Facebook. They will quickly request to communicate outside of the avenue in which you met, either through personal email or text messaging. These scammers will start by asking for a small favor in order to gauge whether the victim will be likely to help in the inevitable emergency that will occur in the future and require a much larger sum of money that they will request be sent by Western Union or Money Gram.
#8 Robocall Scam: The notorious “Rachel from Cardholder Services” made a resurgence in 2016. This scam claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates and takes personal information – including your credit card number – and then charges fees to your card. Robocalls will always give you the option to be removed from their call list by pressing a certain number. Hang up and do dot press anything! This will only confirm that there is a live person on the other end of the phone and they will keep calling back.
#7 Government Call Scam: Scammers will call claiming to be a representative from some government agency (the IRS, Medicare, etc.). They will then either inform you that you owe their agency money and request immediate payment or they need you to verify some sensitive information over the phone that they will then use to do further damage.
#6 Emergency Scam: This one is sometimes called the “grandparent scam” because it often preys on older consumers. You get a call or email from your grandchild or other relative who was injured, robbed or arrested while traveling overseas and needs money ASAP. Do not send money!!
#5 Can You Hear Me Scam: You get a call from someone who immediately asks “Can you hear me?” Their goal is to get you to answer “Yes.” These phone calls are recorded and edited to make it sound like you authorized a major purchase.
#5 Medical Alert Scam: Another one that preys on older folks. You get a call or a visit from a company claiming a concerned family member ordered you a medical alert device in case you have an emergency. They take your credit card or banking information but you never receive anything.
#4 Door-to-Door Scam: These scams vary but often include one of the following situations. Your safest course of action to avoid getting caught up in one of these scams is to not open your door to strangers.
- Magazine sales include groups of travelling sales people who hit whole neighborhoods hard and fast offering magazine subscriptions that never get delivered.
- Utility scams happen when fraudulent utility companies hire and train door-to-door sale representatives to come to your home and convince you they can save you money on your electricity or gas bill. They will either try to gain access to your account information to switch your service without permission, or offer low-low rates for the first couple of months then hit you with a steep price hike.
- Alarm system scammers enter your home under the guise of upgrading your current alarm system, then negotiate you into a long term service agreement (2-5 years) that is very costly to break.
#3 “Are You Calling Yourself?” Scam: Scammers can make a call look like it’s coming from anywhere. The latest trick puts your number in the Caller ID, which piques your curiosity and gets you to pick up the phone or return the call… and then they’ve snagged you in whatever scam they are running.
#2 Tech Support Scam: You get a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from Microsoft (or Norton, or Apple) about a problem on your computer. They say if you give “tech support” access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your personal information.
And the top Scam of the Year, because it’s just so terrifying, is:
#1 Arrest Scam: You receive an ominous phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the IRS). They are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty… but you can avoid it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Another variation on this is that you’ll be arrested for an overdue payday loan. Whatever the “violation,” it’s scary to be threatened with arrest, and many people pay out of fear.
These are the scams that have been proven to be successful year after year, because scammers are professionals who have tried and true techniques to swindle you for big bucks. They do things like build relationships and connections and play on your emotions to get you to make hasty decisions, and they often go through extensive measures to make themselves appear credible. Remember, they are actual pros at what they do.
Avoiding the scam rules to live by:
- Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
- Take time to research the organization. Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
- Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
- If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business from the number on your bill or the back of your credit card.
- 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’ve been able to verify the emergency.