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Better Business Bureau of East Texas lists top 10 scams of 2017

By Special to the News-Journal
Jan. 2, 2018 at 12:16 a.m.


Some are new twists on old scams, but the Better Business Bureau of East Texas' list of top 10 scams for 2017 shows scammers get more sophisticated every year.

"For the last three years in a row, the IRS tax scam topped the list," said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. "Unfortunately, this means that many continue to fall for the scam."

The following list includes the most reported scams and suspicious activities of 2017 via BBB Scam Tracker:

1. Internal Revenue Service scam: Scammers posing as IRS agents claim you owe back taxes and threaten lawsuits and arrest if payment is not sent immediately. Remember, the IRS does not make threatening phone calls, nor do you send payment via unconventional methods such as gift cards or wire transfer.

2. Sweepstakes/lottery/prizes: Winning the sweepstakes, dream vacation, large amounts of money, a new car, shopping spree or new technology sounds great, especially if you didn't enter to win. Unexpected prize and lottery scams rely on your excitement to lure you into paying fees for your prize and typically require that you provide your personal information with the intent of compromising your identity. Remember, you should never have to pay fees for winning a prize. You will also never win a lottery you never entered.

3. Government grant: Victims receive a phone call, email or letter stating they qualified for a government grant, but to receive the grant they must pay the processing and/or delivery fee via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to somebody you don't know or haven't met in person.

4. Auto warranty: You receive a letter in the mail that your auto warranty has expired and you have a limited amount of time to extend your warranty for a low cost. Often you'll receive more than one letter that extends the time for you to get that low price.

5. Tech support: Consumers are being targeted by scammers pretending to be well-known tech support companies. Victims are contacted with a message on their computer that a virus has been detected and to "fix" the problem. A phone number or website is given to purchase an anti-virus computer via debit or credit card. Computer manufacturers will not contact you to let you know if there is a problem with your computer.

6. Phishing or smishing: You receive an email or text telling you you've won a contest and a business or someone posing as an official at your place of employment needs to verify your personal information, such as your Social Security number. Never click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails, and never provide personal information without first verifying the source.

7. Employment: Scammers advertise a job opening or guarantee job placement if you pay a fee to cover the cost it takes to place you in a job. However, after you pay, there's no job and you are out of money. Remember, if a potential employer asks you to pay the company to cover the costs of testing, training or background checks, consider it a red flag.

8. Advance fee loan: Advance fee lenders charge an upfront fee and will "guarantee" you a loan despite your credit history, and chances are you won't get your money back. Legitimate financial organizations will always check your credit history. A lender who isn't interested in your credit history is an immediate red flag.

9. Bogus online retailers: You see a highly sought-after item for a discounted price or a puppy too cute for words. You wire the money or pay via prepaid credit card. The money is gone, you have no items, and the retailer is nowhere to be found. Always use caution when dealing with unfamiliar online retailers.

10. Medicaid/Medicare scam: You are contacted by a government authority who claims they wish to send you a free gift for updating your account information. You soon discover you never received the gift and your identity has been compromised. Never provide personally identifiable information to an unsolicited phone call or email without first verifying the source.

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