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 – Unsolicited Check Scam
There are so many variations on this scam that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but one report to the BBB last week said the victim received a fake check for $2,000 that appeared to come from Walmart. The accompanying letter gave the recipient instructions on completing a “quality control” job, and that this paycheck would serve as compensation.
In reality, cashing the check would open up a floodgate of possibilities, including identity theft, account theft, bank fees for an invalid check, or automatically subscribing to an ongoing charge.
Remember, there is no such thing as free money, especially in the form of an unsolicited check for a job you never applied for. Scammers are playing off of our desire for extra money; they certainly won’t be the ones to lose out in a situation like this.
#2 – Good Citizen Scam
This variation on tax scams is really tricky, and it’s perfect for this time of year. While many people will still file their tax returns on (or after) the mid-April deadline, a lot of citizens have already filed and even put their refunds to good use. Those people are ripe for scammers to come after with a “good citizen” scam.
Scammers posing as IRS agents—either through phone calls, emails, or even postal mailers—claim that you are entitled to additional funds as the government’s way of thanking you for filing on time.
Even if there is some truth to government award programs, no one will contact you and ask for your personal identifiable information in order to “process” this reward. Think about it… they’re with the state or federal tax office. They already have all of your information, including where you work and how much money you made last year. Yet scammers call and ask you to “verify” your information, which allows them to steal your identity.
#3 – Online Dog Breeder Scam
All scams are horrible, but ones that play off our emotions as a way to pressure us to cooperate are particularly bad. In this report, the victim was strung along by an internet scammer who claimed to be selling puppies. After much back and forth and promises of the dog—complete with photos—the victim finally agreed to pay half of the asking price via instant wire transfer. Of course, there was no dog. The asking price of $500 plus an additional $200 for shipping resulted in the victim losing out on half that money and never hearing from the scammer again.
When you’re buying something online, the internet can be a Wild West of options. If you have the choice to only deal with well-known, reputable companies, that’s usually a safer bet. But when dealing with individuals, always do your homework. Read reviews from other buyers who’ve dealt with this individual, and contact those people directly for more information if you can. Speak to the seller on the phone and verify as much as you can about him or her. Ask for copies of state licenses if you’re working with someone who sells something that is regulated, and request a notarized document describing the item for sale and proving its existence. Finally, when it comes time to pay, use an authorized escrow-type payment service that will hold the funds and guarantee the consumer’s protection if an issue arises.
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.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.