Top Scams of 2016 - Continue in 2017
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. According to the Better Business Bureau, tax scams are still at the top of the list for the past two years, despite a police raid in Mumbai, India in September, which resulted in a huge drop in reported incidents.
The list was compiled based on more than 30,000 scam reports being filed on bbb.org/scamtracker, a free interactive online tool launched in 2015 by BBB. While not all of the reports resulted in loss of money since many recognized the scam before being victimized, but they were reported it anyway to warn others.
The top three scams were tax scams, debt collection scams, and sweepstakes scams - the same three top scams from previous years, but new to the top ten list are online purchase scams and phishing scams. Also new to the top ten was employment scams, and there was a drop in the number of tech support scams.
Avoiding these kinds of scams is important for obvious reasons. Educating oneself on the signs to be on the lookout for is the best way to avoid them. A handy tool for this is bbb.org/avoidscams, and the IRS also provides useful information on their website. (https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts)
The IRS website covers the specifics of the tax scam in the United States and what to look for, and how to deal with the situation should it happen to you.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS, and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting, or victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Note that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
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To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.
Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
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