Top Scams of the Week for January 19th 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.
Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Phony Tech Support
One of the most prevalent scams in the past week has been fraud attempts that are masked as tech support offers. In these scams, people reach out to their victims by posing as support personnel who can clean viruses off their computers.
First of all, it’s likely that the virus was never even there. A popup box that looks a lot like it came from Microsoft (other versions have flashing red warnings that look very dangerous) can be very hard to ignore, though. When you click the box to remove the threat or report the virus, however, that’s when you actually installed the virus! The box originally showed up when you opened a link in an email, clicked on an ad on a website, or other similar action. Remember, that wasn’t the virus…clicking on the warning is what damages your computer.
Other victims have reported being called out of the blue by individuals who informed them they’d detected viruses on their networks, claiming to work for the computer’s manufacturer. This is false, and it’s not how computers even work. Computer companies don’t staff call centers filled with people who simply sit at a desk all day and monitor their customers’ computer use for any signs of a virus. But that doesn’t stop the scammer from trying.
When you agree to have the support person remove the viruses, you will be directed to pay by credit card, which the scammer will then steal. Remember, never pay over the phone to someone who contacts you for any reason, and if your computer actually does have a virus, there are ways to remove it at home.
#2 – Work from Home Scams
Another commonly reported scam this week was the ever-popular work from home scam. This one has been around literally for decades, mostly because it still works. After all, who doesn’t dream of waking up, turning on their computer while the coffee brews, and sitting down to work for a few hours, all while supposedly making hundreds or even thousands of dollars a week?
Most work from home scams operate by selling you something, like a list of useless names for you to then contact on your own, or the “supplies” you’ll need to conduct your business. With everything from mystery shopping to data entry to envelope stuffing, scammers hold out a lot of different options while taking your money.
There are legitimate work-from-home opportunities out there, but you have to do your homework to find them. And rest assured, you won’t find your next dream career by responding to a spam email or clicking on a flashy sidebar ad.
#3 – IRS Imposters
This scam actually topped the list last week, but it’s still happening and therefore still making our list. With tax time already upon us, imposters are coming out of the woodwork to try to get your money, your identifying information, or both.
Using either email or a technique called caller ID spoofing, the scammer reaches out to you with one of two likely scenarios. In the first, he says that you owe money from last year (either you didn’t pay enough or you owe an unpaid penalty for not filing properly); he then goes on to say that you must make payment immediately in order to file this year’s return, and that you might even face jail time. The second scenario that victims have reported involves “updating” your profile with the IRS, which will require you to fill out an online form or answer questions over the phone. This is nothing more than a way to steal all of your information, and then steal your identity.
Remember, the IRS simply does not work this way. You will never be called or emailed and told to make a payment right then. You will also never be contacted and asked for your personal information.
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.