The results are in from the first 10,000 scams reported to the new bbb.org/scamtracker. Here are the top ten scams of 2015 and a few notes on avoiding each one of them.
Scam Type Number Percentage
Tax Scams (IRS) 2,413 24%
Debt Collections 835 8.3%
Sweepstakes/Prizes 811 8%
Tech Support 608 6%
Government Grant 574 5.7%
Advanced Fee Loan 388 3.8%
Credit Cards 306 3%
Work from Home 261 2.6%
Fake Check/Money Order 242 2.4%
Lottery 241 2.4%
*We see that phony IRS calls are the major problem. Its success unfortunately means that it is working well. So it is important to just hang up when called, never call these numbers back, never press a key to be removed from future calls, and report anyone claiming to be with the government to the Federal Trade commission at 1-877-382-4357.
*If receiving a call from someone claiming to collect a debt, ask for the information in writing; who you owe, how much you owe and when the bill took place. Never agree to settle over the phone without receiving something in writing. Call the original company to ensure this entity actually represents them…
*Never pay to enter sweepstakes. Never pay to receive a prize. Publisher’s clearinghouse does not offer prizes over the phone or send first class mail. And while the BBB gives away valuable info for free, we do not give away cash and/or prizes.
*Imposter scams are those claiming to be with the government, Social Security, IRS, your bank, Prosecutors office, police, grandchildren, etc. Ask questions only a family member would know, or simply hang up!
*Government grant scams have been around since 2004. Never pay $300 in the hope of getting $8,000. Grants have to be applied for with a lot of paperwork. Grants are not given out because you are a good citizen, pay your taxes, or to pay off personal loans or home improvement. There are rare instances where you can get a grant to restore your home if it is listed as a historical landmark. Even then, extensive paperwork is required.
*Please be careful when applying online for loans. Have specific companies in mind rather than just clicking on ads. Remember you are providing personal information that could be used by criminals to open accounts in your name. Never pay a fee to get money.
*Hang up on calls offering to lower your interest rate. At best, they are offering a new credit card with an introductory rate of 0% for 30 to 90 days. However, they tack a $900 fee on it from the beginning, or charge that to an existing card if you give them the number. You can call credit card issuers and often lower your own interest rates. They don’t want to lose your business, so you have the power of negotiation.
*Work-at-home offers are nothing new. However, new tactics are being used which include receiving and shipping stolen products, taking payments and sending money using fraudulent checks. Don’t disclose personal information without knowing the address and phone number of the business or without speaking with an actual person. Remember people can use addresses of legitimate businesses with whom they have no affiliation. Yes, this is the latest scary trend known as business identity theft. Ask questions and do not cash any checks sent to you without your prior knowledge or consent. Never return money if someone said you were overpaid. Give these counterfeit checks to local law enforcement, your bank or post office.
*Finally, don’t fall for lottery scams. International lotteries are not authorized so avoid any calls from Jamaica (876) or mailings from other countries, mentioning other countries or using the words “International” or “Global”.
While scams constantly evolve, some things never change. So share these four words: Never Pay to Win! If you regularly read this blog, many of these items are not new to you. So please share with family, friends, fellow students and colleagues so we can all be safer in 2016 and beyond. Happy Holidays!