Top Fraud of 2015

Sadly, these scams will probably be popular in 2016.

January is a month of looking back and looking ahead. It’s when we reminisce on all the events of the past year, and we make predictions about the New Year.

Sadly, when it comes to criminals trying to separate us from our money, the past and future are both depressing.

 

AARP has once again released its list of Top Scams of 2015. The organization concludes, “The top scams of 2015 nearly mirrors the 2014 list, so chances are, these scams are not going away.” Here they are, even if they sound familiar:

“IRS Imposters”

What’s worse than paying taxes? Paying them to a criminal. Posing as an IRS agent, an intimidating and official-sounding callers threatens to arrest you, deport you, seize your property, or close your business unless you immediately pay back taxes – whether you really owe any or not.

“This remains the nation’s biggest scam,” AARP says. It’s especially popular as Tax Day approaches, which is why Consolidated Credit offers 4 ways to stay safe. The most important advice: “Remember, the IRS never calls – it only contacts you through the Post Office.”

“Tech Support Scam”

This is a double scam. Some imposters will contact you claiming to be from a company like Microsoft, and they’ll warn you about computer viruses they can get rid of – for a price. Of course, they do nothing for what you pay them in “tech support” – and they can get access to your files and passwords, which they can use for identity theft.

“By year’s end, some 3.3 million Americans have paid an estimated $1.5 billion to these fraudsters,” AARP says. Check out Consolidate Credit’s Identity Theft section for a list of tips to avoid this ever-growing problem.

“Foreign Lotteries”

Anybody with an email address has received at least one of these “YOU WIN!” announcements, which urge you to contact them immediately to collect your millions – once you send along a processing fee, or a tax payment, or some other excuse.

“If you ever win a legitimate lottery, you never have to pay taxes, processing fees or anything else upfront to collect,” AARP says. Besides, does it really make sense that you won a lottery you never entered?

“Sweepstakes”

As AARP says, “Different type of contest, but same instructions…and outcome.” One common version is: Just pay for shipping and handling, and we’ll send you this amazing merchandise you won! Of course, that merchandise never arrives.

“Grandparents Scam”

While it’s last on AARP’s list, this might be the worst of them all – because it can come at a terrible emotional cost. A grandparent gets a call that reports a grandchild needs money. Often, the cause is a serious accident.

“What ignites more fear and sense of urgency that a desperate call from a loved one in trouble?” AARP says. Of course, the caller is a scammer “who glean names and family details online.” They ask for immediate cash. Instead of sending money, you hang up and call your relatives directly.