Scammers are always out to steal your personal information and money -- and 2016 was no exception. Recently, the Better Business Bureau released its list of the top 10 scams over the past year.
If you've ever been the victim of a scam, you'll know how frustrating it can be. And if you haven't, don't let your guard down. Below we list how to spot these scams, plus ways to protect yourself!
BBB releases top 10 scams of 2016
Though a police raid in Mumbai, India made a huge dent in reducing the number of tax scams last year, tax scams still topped the list of the Better Business Bureau's top scams of 2016.
Additionally, debt collections and sweepstakes, prizes and gifts scams took the 2nd and 3rd spot, respectively, while online purchase scams and phishing scams were new additions to the list.
The list of scams was compiled by a tool the BBB developed called the Scam Tracker, which tracks scams in real time by location. Over 30,000-plus scams were reported in 2016.
1. Tax scams
According to the IRS, a tax scam happens when a frauster pretends to be the IRS and demands money from tax payers via email, a phone call, or a written letter. The IRS has many tips on its website to help consumers know when they're dealing with a scam and how to respond.
Here are some of the most common tax scams and how to avoid them:
- Warning: IRS scammers sending fake notices through the mail to steal your money
- 7 most common IRS and tax scams that come back every year
- How to avoid email phishing scams this tax season
- The fake IRS phone scam is back!
- Beware of these common IRS scams
- This free app blocks IRS scam phone calls
- Beware of unscrupulous tax preparers who want Obamacare penalty in cash
- Nearly half of IRS-approved free tax preparers fail cybersecurity audit
- This is what a fake IRS phone call sounds like
2. Debt collections
The Federal Trade Commission describes a debt collection scam as "telephone calls from people trying to collect on loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive but for amounts they do not owe." Scammers pose as debt collectors in an attempt to steal money from victims.
- How to spot a debt collection scam
- A debt collector came after me for $4,526 that I didn't owe
- 7 questions every debt collector should be able to answer
- Before you pay a debt collector, you need to take this step!
Scams like this start with elation, but can end in devastation. Who wouldn't want to be notified that they won thousands, even millions of dollars, a car, or a dream vacation? But sadly, scams like this end with money or your identity being stolen from you.
The FTC has a great list of warning signs to watch out for here, but the following links can help too:
- An old cash prize scam is back, and it's coming for your smartphone
- 5 ways to spot Facebook contest scams
- Warning about Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes scams
- Top 7 Facebook scams of 2016
4. Online purchase scams
Online purchase scams or online shopping scams can involve a number of different kinds of fake or fraudulent websites, ads, or classified listings. With the anonymity of the Internet, it can be easy to set up a fake website and offer fake goods to unsuspecting customers. But, as the FTC notes, it's very important to know how to discern the difference between a true retailer and a fake one.
5. Employment scams
Job or employment scams "trick people who are looking for honest work," according to the FTC. These scams often ask the people who apply for the positions to pay for something in advance, such as training, and they often promise a big payout. But, you'll want to watch out! These kinds of job offers are most likely scams that will steal your money, and you won't have earned a penny.
6. Government grants
Government grant scams might be an ad that claims to offer you a free grant to pay for things like education, business expenses, or bills, but according to the FTC there are two telltale signs: Your application is sure to be accepted, and you'll never have to repay the money. After congratulating you, scamsters will ask for your financial information in order to send the grant to you. However, instead of giving you money, these scams will steal money from your bank account.
7. Technical support
A tech support scam is when a scammer calls you trying to offering what sounds like legitimate computer services or assistance, and claims to be from a well-known computer company. But once these people have gained your trust, they try to get you to give them remote access to your computer, or give them personal information such as passwords. So what's the best thing to do when you get one of these calls? Hang up!
- Warning: This fake tech support scam is costing people big bucks!
- If you press 1 when you get this robocall, it will open you up to identity theft
8. Advance fee loan
These kinds of scams prey on people by promising personal loans or credit cards regardless of someone's credit score or credit history. If you find a credit offer that seems too good to be true and the company doesn't seem interested in your credit history, this may be indicative of an advance fee loan scam. The FTC suggests watching out for these red flags to avoid falling for this scam.
9. Fake check/money order
Counterfeit and phony payments, such as fake checks or fake money orders can be a big headache. This scam gets people excited, much like the sweepstakes scam. You're given a big check, and all you have to do is wire some money for taxes and fees and cash it! The trouble is, the check is fake, and the wire transfer drains your bank account. The FTC says that these kinds of fake check or money order scams are on the rise.
According to the FTC, phishing is when scammers "impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information." Typically, messages are sent via email or text, and they dupe consumers into thinking they are talking with their bank or another business. But keep in mind, your bank will probably never ask you for sensitive financial information through text or email. It's best to delete the text or email and block the sender, so these scammers can't get the better of you.
- Amazon users targeted in new phishing scam aimed at stealing bank account details
- How new malware stole millions from customers of 22 U.S. banks
- How to avoid email phishing scams this tax season
- Warning: This new Netflix email scam will steal your banking info