Top Scams of the Week for February 5, 2016
Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top industry experts to provide consumers with updates about threats to their personal data. The Better Business Bureau leads the way by publishing a recurring and continually updated list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each day in its Scam Tracker.
It’s worth noting that IRS Imposter Scams are still topping the list of reports to the BBB, and that isn’t likely to change until well after tax season. In the meantime, take a look at some of their other recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Tax Collection
While IRS imposter scams are already blowing up people’s phones and email inboxes, the tax “collection” scam is slightly different. While imposter scams occur when someone pretends to be an IRS agent in order to collect fines or gather your personal information under the pretense of updating your account, a collection scam is far scarier.
Reports have come in already this month in which scammers have contacted potential victims and informed them that legal proceedings are already underway against them. In some cases it’s been civil lawsuits in which the victim is allegedly being sued for failure to pay, and in other circumstances it has been threats of criminal proceedings.
Remember, the IRS is not authorized to take any payments over the phone and will never insist that the only way you can pay is through a wire transfer or prepaid credit card. Those indicators should immediately tell you this is a scam. At the same time, the IRS does not have its own police force, and you will never be called first and told you can halt your own arrest if you just make payment.
#2 – Online Purchase
From time shares to vehicles to concert tickets, reports of scams involving fraudulent online purchasing are on the rise. The availability of legitimate online retail and resale sites has only fostered the idea that you can score great deals from web-based companies. Unfortunately, you can also end up paying for products that don’t even exist, let alone work the way you want them to.
It’s important to make sure you know what you’re getting, how it’s being paid for, and how it will arrive to you before you make any online purchases. Going through a reputable site is a must, as is paying only through a verified payment method that guarantees you some sort of consumer protection. Anyone who expects you to pay upfront and only accepts wire transfers does not have your best interests at heart.
#3 – Overpayment Scam
This one is rarer but certainly not so uncommon that people don’t fall for it. The victim receives a check—either for a legitimate purchase like an item sold on an auction website, but also just out of the blue—and is immediately contacted by the sender and told it was an error. Since they’re such nice people, they’ll have you cash it, keep out $100 for your trouble, and wire them back the rest of it.
Of course, once the check is deposited in your account and you withdraw the money that you’re returning, the check takes a day or so to clear. It’s fake, often written off a phony account. You essentially just took money out of your account and wired it to a thief.
If you receive a check like this, don’t try to make a buck for your “inconvenience.” Just offer to tear it up. It won’t hurt anything to have the check made void and the sender won’t be out any money, so there’s no reason to play along.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker site or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.