Scam artists have been out in full force in 2016, relying on tried and true scams to bilk billions from unsuspecting victims. Here are some of the most frequently reported scams to the Fraud Watch Network hotline:
• Tech support scam – You get a call from Microsoft (or another tech company) saying your computer has a virus that can be fixed for a fee. Don’t pull out your credit card – simply hang up. Microsoft doesn’t make tech support calls.
• IRS impostor scam – An official-looking letter from the IRS informs you of taxes you owe related to the Affordable Care Act. The letter instructs you to write a check payable to “IRS” and send it to an address in Austin, TX. The red flag is how the letter instructs you to write out the check – it would be to the U.S. Treasury if the letter were real.
• Sweepstakes scam – You get a personalized letter that tells you you’ve won a million dollar prize, but you need to pay a fee or a tax in advance to receive the funds. Legitimate sweepstakes will never require upfront payments.
• Grandparent scam – You get a frantic call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to be your grandchild, saying he’s in a bind and needs money right away. He asks you to send money by wire transfer – the payment form of choice for scam artists.
• Fake charity scams – A scammer impersonating a real charity contacts you to ask for a donation. This happens a lot around the holidays and following natural disasters.
As always at this time of year, holiday scams abound. Here are some AARP tips and a video on what to watch out for.
As we enter 2017, we’ll continue to alert you to the latest scams and frauds, in the hope that we can all avoid falling victim to these tactics. All the best to you and yours for a scam-free New Year!