Think Twice if You Get a Call From the IRS or the ‘Prize Patrol’

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As if consumers don’t already have enough scams to worry about, the Federal Trade Commission says impostor scams are on the rise.

Scams cost Americans big bucks. The FTC said that in 2014 consumers lost $1.7 billion to fraud. Impostor scams are one of the crimes highlighted in the 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book report.

According to the FTC:

Impostor scams play on your emotions. The scammers work hard to make you believe that you’ve won something or you have an unexpected problem. They say that, for a small fee, they’ll send you lots of money or make your troubles disappear. They might encourage you to pay them with a reloadable card or they may ask for your personal information.

Here are the FTC’s top 10 impostor scams:

  1. “Tax man.” Scammers impersonating Internal Revenue Service agents are on the rise. In fact, they’re the No. 1 impostor scam in the Consumer Sentinel. These fake tax agents try to trick people into thinking they owe back taxes or there’s a problem with their tax return. Take note: The real IRS will send you a letter in the mail. The IRS will not contact you by phone or email.
  2. You’ve won! Or have you? If you’re asked to send money in order to collect on a so-called prize, don’t do it. Hang up the phone. You’re being scammed.
  3. Computer “fix.” Some scammers will try to convince you that you have computer issues that need to be fixed. Don’t fall for it. If you truly have technical issues, call a reputable repair person.
  4. “Technical support” calling. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft Technical Support, hang up. Here’s how it works: The caller says, “I’m looking at your computer and there’s dangerous software popping up,” the FTC explained. “In reality – and you have my “Word” on this – ­ it’s a scam. Put down the phone or refuse to click the pop-up,” FTC said.
  5. Money move. If someone calls claiming to be an FBI agent who is helping someone from the United Kingdom or elsewhere move their money into the United States, and needs your help, hang up. It’s a scam.
  6. Computer info thieves. Beware of email links. If you click on a link that looks like it’s from a legit company, you could be in trouble. If you don’t pay the money the hackers are asking for, they threaten to delete personal computer files. Avoid the headache by backing up your files often. That way, you win and the scammer loses.
  7. You’ve won a grant: If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with a federal agency and they say you won a “government grant for thousands of dollars,” don’t be tempted to send in the hundreds of dollars in taxes and fees they require from you first.
  8. Bogus health official: This scam involves someone pretending to work with Medicare or the Affordable Care Act. Do not give them your personal information.
  9. Deportation threat. Fake Homeland Security officers sometimes try to convince immigrants that they will be deported unless they give up money or information.
  10. “Mom” calling. Even the Caller ID can be misused. Sometimes scammers change the Caller ID to read “mom” or another common moniker so try to get you to pick up.

Check out other top consumer-related scams.

Have you ever been the victim of a scam? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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