Stay Calm and Trust No One: Protecting Yourself Against Scammers
Tax scams grab a lot of identity theft headlines, and for good reason
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises that 25 percent of reported scams in 2016 were related to tax issues. But there’s more than one way to scam a consumer, and scammers are constantly thinking up new and more sophisticated ways to lure in victims.
According to the BBB, last year’s fastest-growing scams included:
- Online purchase scams . These may involve sites selling fake merchandise, as well as sites that aren’t selling anything at all. By the time your “designer” duds have arrived, or you realize you’ll never get what you paid for, the scammers have your money as well as your name, address and credit card information, which is what they are really after.
- Employment scams. Scammers send a message from a personal email address. They mention your resume on a job site (where you may or may not have it posted), tease you with a well-paying, work-from-home opportunity, and then ask you to reply to request more information and an application, which of course will ask for information such as your Social Security number and date of birth, information you should never give out to unsolicited contact. Some may ask for bank account details, or for money to pay for a background check or startup materials. There are legitimate work-from-home opportunities, but if you receive an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true, trust your instincts and delete the message.
- W-2 phishing scams. The IRS has alerted all employers to be aware of a Form W-2 email phishing scam. This is how it works: cybercriminals send an email to a payroll or human resources employee, requesting a full or partial list of employees as well as their Forms W-2. The email is spoofed to appear as if it has been sent by an executive within the organization. If the unsuspecting employee responds with the requested information, employees potentially become identity theft victims.
- There are a number of other clever scams you should be aware of, including: “Congratulations! You’ve won a free cruise.” Before you can set sail, you just need to wire money to cover taxes or other fees. Nothing says scam like asking a “winner” to pay for play. No matter how legitimate the prize sounds or how much you want to believe it’s your lucky day, no respectable contest sponsor will ask for money in exchange for a prize.
- “Risk-free” trials. Make sure you read the fine print. There are certainly legitimate free trials, but always make sure that when you provide your credit card number to cover shipping and handling charges, that you know exactly who you are giving it to and for what.
- Dating site scams. Scammers on dating sites are looking to do more than swipe right; they could be out to steal your money. They will get to know you and gain your trust, and then – often without even meeting face-to-face – will ask for money to fly to meet you, or tell you about an amazing investment opportunity.
You can protect yourself from falling victim to these scams by being vigilant, saying “no” to any offer that comes with strings attached, or talking to someone about an offer before you respond. However, it is possible to become a victim when someone else falls for a scam. As always, if you have any questions about these or other potential scams, reach out to your IDShield licensed private investigator for assistance.