According to the Better Business Bureau the following are the Top Scams of 2017. Many are new twists on existing scams, but scammers become more sophisticated every year in how they spoof trusted brands and how they fool consumers.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Scammers posing as IRS agents claim you owe back taxes and threaten lawsuits and arrest if payment is not sent immediately. Keep in mind, the IRS does not make threatening phone calls, nor do you send payment via unconventional methods such as gift cards or wire transfer. For additional information, visit the IRS Website for Tax Scam prevention and tips.
Winning the sweepstakes, dream vacation, large amounts of money, a new car, shopping spree or new technology sounds great especially if you didn't enter to win. Unexpected prize and lottery scams rely on your excitement to lure you into paying fees for your prize or and typically require that you provide your personal information with the intent of compromising your identity.
Remember, you should never have to pay fees for winning a prize. You will also never win a lottery you never entered.
Victims receive a phone call, email or letter stating they qualified for a government grant, but to receive the grant you must pay the processing and/or delivery fee via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to somebody you don't know or haven't met in person.
You receive a letter in the mail that your auto warranty has expired, but you have a limited amount of time to extend your warranty for a low cost. Often times you'll receive more than one letter that extends the time for you to get that low price. Check with bbb.org before purchasing another warranty from a company.
Consumers are being targeted by fraudsters pretending to be well-known tech support companies. Victims are contacted with a message on their computer that a virus has been detected and to "fix" the problem, a phone number or website is given to purchase an anti-virus computer via debit or credit card. Computer manufacturers will not contact you to let you know if there is a problem with your computer.
You receive an email or text telling you that you've won a contest, a business or someone posing as an official at your place of employment needs to verify your personal information, such as your Social Security number. Never click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails and never provide personal information without first verifying the source.
Scammers advertise a job opening or guarantee job placement if you pay a fee to cover the cost it takes to place you in a job. However, after you pay, there's no job and you are out of money. Remember, if a potential employer asks you to pay the company to cover the costs of testing, training or background checks, consider it a red flag.
Advance Fee Loan
Advance fee lenders charge an upfront fee and will "guarantee" you a loan despite your credit history and chances are you won't get your money back. Legitimate financial organizations will always check your credit history. A lender who isn't interested in your credit history is an immediate red flag.
Bogus Online Retailers
You see a highly sought-after item for a discounted price or a puppy too cute for words. You wire the money or pay via pre-paid credit card. The money is gone, you have no items, and the retailer is nowhere to be found. Always use caution when dealing with unfamiliar online retailers. Read reviews at the Better Business Bureau website to make sure you are dealing with a business you can trust.
You are contacted by a government authority who claims they wish to send you a free gift for updating your account information. You soon discover you never received the gift and your identity has been compromised. Never provide personally identifiable information to an unsolicited phone call or email without first verifying the source.
Con artists post listings for properties that either aren't for rent, don't exist, or are significantly different than pictured. They then lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities.
Another common travel scam is the timeshare resale con. A timeshare owner who is looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in timeshare resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target into paying an upfront fee. The timeshare owner pays up, but the reselling agent never delivers.
You should never pay for a vacation rental by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash. Remember, if it's too good to be true it probably isn't.
These scams are designed to either steal your money now, or steal your identity now in order to steal your money later. Scammers have all kinds of techniques to collect personally identifiable information. Once they have it, they can effectively become you, using your identity to open accounts, file taxes, or obtain medical coverage. Look for unexplained withdrawals, charges, and accounts. Also, check your credit reports regularly for unauthorized inquiries and accounts.
Phony Debt Collection
The scammer calls and tells you that they work for a loan company, law firm or government agency, and claims to be collecting an overdue payment. When you reply that you don't owe money, the "debt collector" starts to make threats of suing you, having your wages garnished, arresting you, or forcing you to appear in court thousands of miles from home. Despite the threats, these "debt collectors" don't have any legal power. In most cases, the alleged overdue loan doesn't even exist. Don't give in and pay money you don't owe. If you do, the scammer will likely be back for more.
"Can You Hear Me?"
You get a call from someone who almost immediately asks "Can you hear me?" Their goal is to get you to answer "Yes," which most people would do instinctively in that situation. There may be some fumbling around; the person may even say something like "I'm having trouble with my headset." But in fact, the "person" may just be a robocall recording your conversation… and that "Yes" answer you gave can later be edited to make it sound like you authorized a major purchase. Use Caller ID to screen calls, and consider not even answering unfamiliar numbers. If it's important, they will leave a message and you can call back. If someone calls and asks "Can you hear me?," do not answer "yes." Just hang up.