The best way to avoid a scam? To know about it! That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of current scams. Unfortunately, scammers are innovative and sophisticated – they’re always coming up with new schemes and tactics to trick people out of their money and personal information. New scams are always popping up, and old ones that you might already be aware of may become less common over time.
Case in point: the IRS scam call. The tax collection scam was the BBB’s #1 scam in both 2015 and 2016. In 2016, tax scams accounted for 25% of reports to BBB Scam Tracker, despite a large drop in reports following a September police raid on a call center in India. However, things are now looking a little different. According to 2017 BBB Scam Tracker reports from January to mid-June, the tax collection scam is only the fifth most common scam, accounting for only around five percent of reports.
The rest of BBB’s top scams of 2017 so far might surprise you. Read on to learn what to watch out for:
- 1) Phishing scams. So far in 2017, consumers have reported over 9,500 phishing scams to BBB Scam Tracker, accounting for 34% of reports.
- How to avoid them: In a phishing scam, you’re contacted out of blue over phone, email or text by a friend, colleague or business. The email either contains a link to “verify your account”, has an attachment that you’re urged to open or wants you to share personal information. Don’t open unexpected attachments or share personal or log-in info – contact the business or person directly to verify the email’s authenticity first. Phishing scams were the tenth most reported scam in 2016. The increase in reports may be due to the “can you hear me?” scam, which surged in the beginning of 2017. Learn more about the “can you hear me?” scam at org/canyouhearme, and about phishing scams at bbb.org/phishingscam.
- 2) Travel and vacation scams. These scams account for around eight percent of reports to BBB Scam Tracker so far in 2017; around 2,200 have been reported.
- How to avoid them: Travel and vacation scams include fake vacation rentals and timeshare resale cons. When traveling, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always do your research and use a credit card because they offer more protections than debit cards or money transfers. Many “can you hear me?” scam calls were about vacation packages and cruises. This might account for the huge jump in travel and vacation scam reports – travel and vacation scams didn’t even make the top ten scam list in 2016! To learn more, visit org/travelscam.
- 3) Online purchase scams. Consumers across North America have reported around 2,100 online purchase scams to BBB Scam Tracker so far in 2017. They were the 4th most reported scam in 2016 with 1,900 reports – more have been reported so far in 2017 than were in all of 2016!
- How to avoid them: In an online purchase scam, you purchase an item from an unfamiliar website but the item never arrives. It’s impossible to get in touch with customer service or receive a refund. Maybe you saw an ad for the site on social media so you thought it was trustworthy, or the prices were astronomically low so you couldn’t pass it up. Either way, you’re out of your money! Always do your research on org before shopping on a new website, and use a credit card. You can find more tips for safe online shopping here, and check out bbb.org/webpurchasescam to learn more about online purchase scams.
- 4) Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prize scams. Reports of these scams account for six percent of total reports to BBB Scam Tracker so far in 2017. Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prize scams were the third most reported scam in 2016 and accounted for seven percent of reports, so they may be becoming less common.
- How to avoid them: You receive a call, email, letter or text saying that you won a big contest that you never actually entered. To claim your prize, you just need to wire money for taxes or fees. Unfortunately, your winnings never come through. You’ll never have to pay upfront to claim a free prize, and be wary if you’re ever asked to wire money. Learn more at org/prizescam.
- 5) Tax collection scams. More than 1,300 tax collection scams have been reported to BBB Scam Tracker so far in 2017, accounting for around five percent of reports. This is in stark contrast to 2016, where more than 7,500 were reported.
- How to avoid them: In a tax collection scam, you usually receive a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. They say you owe money and if you don’t pay immediately – through a gift card, prepaid debit card, or money transfer – someone will come arrest you. Scammers are trying to frighten you, but don’t believe them! Just hang up. Learn more about tax collection scams here, and at org/taxscam.
If you encounter a scam, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker to help warn others. You can also visit BBB Scam Tracker to see what scams are happening near you. To learn more about all 30 scam types, visit bbb.org/scamtips.