It takes a village to catch scammers.
Reporting scams — even when we don’t fall for them — is what we all need to do so authorities can track the bad guys.
Using a new interactive tool, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been asking consumers to help it track scams — and it’s come out with its top 10 scams of 2015.
The BBB created the list based on complaints filed with its Scam Tracker tool, which was launched earlier this year. It collects information from consumers and processes data that’s shared with law enforcement to hopefully identify and prosecute scammers.
The No. 1 scam? The tax scam.
That’s not a surprise, BBB said, but the group did say it was surprising that the tax scam brought in more complaints than the next three categories of scams combined.
Most of these scams may be familiar to you. In fact, Bamboozled has written about almost all of them.
But even if you think there’s nothing new in this list, you should read it, and share it with your friends and family.
Why? Because people still fall for the scams. BBB said 85 percent of those who reported the scams realized they were phony calls or offers, but those who didn’t added up to more than $1 million in losses. And that’s just from those who notified the BBB.
The more consumers get the word out, the better armed we will all be against the hucksters.
Here goes the list:
1. Tax scams: This is when someone calls and claims to be with the IRS, or even the Canadian taxing authorities. They say you’ll be arrested or face legal problems if you don’t pay the money you owe. It’s not uncommon for these calls to appear to come from Washington D.C. or a law enforcement agency. That’s because the scammers “spoof” the numbers.
2. Debt collection scams: In these scams, someone claims you owe a debt, and if you don’t pay, you may be arrested, sued or have your wages garnished. Like the IRS scam, it’s common for these calls to appear to come from a government or law enforcement agency.
3. Sweepstakes/Prizes/Gifts scams: You’ve hit the Publishers Clearing House jackpot. Or you’ve won another prize. But, the caller says, in order to collect, you’ll need to send a shipping fee or taxes or money for insurance on the winnings.
4. Tech support scams: In this scam, you’ve learned through an email or a phone call that your computer is infected with a virus or other security threat. To fix it, you can send a fee. But with this scam, the “tech support” won’t help, but instead is out to get your cash, or gain access to your computer to steal your private information.
5. Government grant scam: It’s free money, the caller or email writer tells you. The government is giving away free grants for your business or other reasons. All you have to do is pay a fee for processing or delivery, but it’s a scam.
6. Advance fee loan scams: Scammers know people who are looking for loans search online, so they create phony ads for too-good-to-be-true loans. When you click on the ad and visit their site, you’re asked to complete an application. Then you learn you’ve been approved — but first you have to pay a processing fee, security deposit or other expenses — and then you never get the loan. Plus, they already have your private info from the loan application.
7. Credit card scams: Fraudsters impersonating your credit card issuer will call or email, saying they want to verify a recent transaction or that you’re eligible for a new benefit for your card. But before they give the details, they need to verify that you are indeed the cardholder, and they ask for a whole lot of personal information — including your credit card number and the three-digit code on back. Then they go to town with your information. Instead, you should call the number on the back of your card, and your lender can tell you if the call was for real.
8. Work from home scam: It’s still a tough job market out there, and scammers know it. They place ads for dream jobs working from home. Most of the time, it’s not a job offer at all, but a grab for the personal information you provide for your employment forms.
9. Fake check/money order scams: These scams come in many varieties, but in essence, someone pays you for a service you provide — think back to complaint No. 8 — but they pay you more than they were supposed to. They instruct you to deposit the check and then wire back the overpayment. When the check you deposited finally goes through, it bounces, but you’ve already sent that fictitious overpayment money away. Your bank will hold you responsible to pay it back.
10. Lottery scams: Similar to scam No. 3 above, you’ve won — this time, it’s a foreign lottery. To claim the money, you need to pay your taxes and fees. You might even receive a small check as a partial payment, but it will bounce. You’ll still be out your “taxes and fees.”
If you’re looking for some fodder for your holiday meals, take a copy of this column with you.
Tell your family members about these scams and how they work, and give them these tips from BBB, with a little tweaking from Bamboozled:
Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
Look online to research anyone who asks you for money. If you’re not sure, don’t pay anything.
Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
If you get a call from your bank, hang up and call the number on the back of your credit card so you can be sure you’re talking to the real thing.
Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
Never send money for an emergency situation — think the Grandma scam — unless you can verify the emergency.
And if you come across a scam — new or old — let us know below in the comments section or at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.