Don’t be a scam victim

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Every day, there are countless ways in which scammers or criminals go out looking for their next victim, whether that means stealing money through tax or debt scams or enticing someone to give out personal information in order to redeem a prize or sweepstakes winning.

The Better Business Bureau publishes an annual list highlighting the year’s top ten scams, and many of them are the same year after year! According to the 2015 report, tax scams made up 24 percent of the total reported scams, with debt collections, working from home opportunities and advanced fee loans rounding out the list. Here’s a little more about what these popular scams entail, starting with the most common:

Debt collection: Someone calls you claiming you have an unpaid debt, even going so far as to threaten you with jail time or wage garnishments if the debt is not paid immediately on the phone.

Taxes: A caller claims to be with the Internal Revenue Service and states you owe back taxes. The caller also threatens arrest if the debt is not paid through wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.

Gifts and prizes: You receive a letter or phone call saying that you’ve won a sweepstakes or giveaway, but in order to receive it you must send money to cover the delivery or processing of the prize.

There are also plenty of scams that are not so common, but can come up even in day-to-day life.

Computer virus or security threat: A “technician” calls you, saying there is a security threat or virus on your computer and you can fix it by paying a fee and allowing them to work at removing the virus remotely.

Government grant: A letter or caller states you are eligible for a government grant, but you must send money through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer to cover the delivery or processing fee.

Advance fee loan: A security deposit or processing fee must be paid in order to obtain an advance loan, a scam most often found through websites.

Credit card: A caller claims to be from a financial institution or card issuer and states you are eligible for a lower interest rate, but in order to receive it you must provide the credit card number and security code for verification purposes.

Working from home: Advertisements promise exceptional pay and benefits for posting advertisements or stuffing envelopes. Identity could be stolen with information provided through employment forms and potentially stolen goods could be used in the scam work projects.

Money orders/checks: You receive a money order or check that exceeds the amount owed, but you’re asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference. These checks and money orders are fake, which means they will bounce after deposit.

Lottery winnings: A caller or advertisement claims you have won a large amount of money from an international lottery, but you must pay fees and taxes up front before obtaining the winnings.

It’s important to know when something is or could be a scam. There are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of scamming or phishing (when a business or company is falsely represented in order to gain access to your private information or accounts).

Oftentimes, scams use the same tactics and techniques, such as claiming you need to take action to receive the good or service, or you must provide personal or financial information. Scammers also go to great lengths to use legitimate-sounding titles, websites and even hacked emails to make themselves sound and look like the individuals or businesses they are pretending to be in order to gain your trust.

Scammers are often successful because they play on emotions. In many situations, you’re required to make a decision on the spot due to threats or promises. Scammers take advantage of your emotions and encourage you to throw rational thought out the window! While it is not always possible to know if it is in fact a scammer, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk.

Never react quickly. Give yourself a chance to research the company or organization. In many situations, scammers are offering goods, services or winnings that are illegal and you could find out with a simple Internet search.

Don’t give out information to people you don’t know. Refrain from giving out personal or financial information over the phone or Internet; this leads to identify theft.

Avoid clicking links from unknown text messages or emails. Only correspond with people you know and trust.

Each day, countless people become the victims of a scam–don’t be one of them! Always take your time to research the facts before falling for unsolicited messages or advice. HLM