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Blog Fraud/Identity Theft

Watch out for the top 10 most reported scams in the United States

Fraud/Identity Theft
Watch out for the top 10 most reported scams in the United States

Spending and investing wisely is only one part of being responsible with your money. Avoiding scams is vital to keeping your money and identity safe.

The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging published a report on the top 10 scams targeting our nation’s seniors. According to CNBC, scams like the ones below add up to about $3 billion in losses a year for seniors.

While seniors are statistically more likely to fall victim to these scams, everyone is at risk. Recognize these 10 common scam tactics so you don’t fall victim yourself.

The Top 10 Most Reported Scams in the United States

1. IRS Impersonation Scams

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Dealing with the IRS is never something you want on your to-do list. Getting a phone call from the agency saying you owe back taxes and threatening foreclosure on your home, arrest or deportation is probably last on your list of fun things to do. The thing is, you won’t get a phone call from the IRS, ever. All communication from the agency is written.

2. Robocalls and Unsolicited Phone Calls

If you own a smartphone, you probably get random calls from random numbers at random times throughout the day. No one asks for these calls and sometimes it seems like there’s no way to stop them. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that there are nearly 2.4 billion of these calls made every year.

If you’re in doubt about the number, don’t answer the phone. Still need more information, type the number into Google. A legitimate business’ website or Google My Business listing will pop up.

3. Sweepstakes Scams & Jamaican Lottery Scams

It’s always nice to win something, especially money. Unless you specifically remember entering a lottery, drawing or sweepstakes, no one is going to randomly give you money. If someone calls saying you need to pay a fee to collect your winnings, hang up immediately.

Most calls like come from a number with a “876” area code. This is the country code from Jamaica. At the peak of this scam, numbers with this code stole $300 million a year from tens of thousands of American seniors.

4. Computer Tech Support Scams

Sinister looking guy in a tech support call center

You probably don’t have a virus, spyware or malware on your computer. If someone randomly calls or messages telling you that you have a fatal threat and need protection immediately, it’s likely a scam. These scammers will often demand personal and financial information to “fix” your computer.

Always remember to use the most up-to-date version of your web browser while surfing the ‘net. Also, make sure to use a browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox. Internet Explorer no longer receives security updates from Microsoft. Using it puts you at risk.

5. Elder Financial Abuse

Random attacks aren’t the only way seniors can become the victims of fraud. Sometimes it’s the people closest to us who hurt us the most. Scammers can include family members, home-care workers and others who want to prey upon an easy target.

6. Grandparent Scams

Another attack on seniors is when random people call pretending to be a grandchild. These people ask for money, and when they receive it, will never contact the senior again.

7. Romance Scams

Woman using online dating app on mobile phone; Shutterstock ID 528753055; CUID Number (on creative Hub): 021780; Organization Name: Arsenal CU; Usage (Sales, Marketing, Internal, Other): Marketing

It’s really easy to pull on someone’s heartstrings in the world of online dating. There’s so much vulnerability involved, that scammers can easily play with emotions and take a mark for all they’re worth.

With these types of schemes, a scammer may ask for money for emergency medical bills or for travel expenses to meet up with the victim, then never contact them again. The best way to protect yourself from an online dating scam like this is to keep all communication on the platform until actually meeting.

8. Social Security Impersonation Scams

These scams are very similar to the IRS scams mentioned above. Someone will call, pretending to be from the agency and ask for personal identifying information. Again, no one from this agency will reach you by phone to ask for this.

9. Impending Lawsuit Scams

This is another scam similar to the IRS or Social Security impersonation ones. With this, a scammer will call pretending to be from a local, state or federal law enforcement agency. The victim is then told there is a warrant out for their arrest (usually for missing jury duty or not paying taxes) and if they don’t pay a fine immediately, they’ll be sent to jail.

10. Identity Theft

A pile of shredded paper

Sometimes you don’t even need to communicate with a scammer to have your identity stolen. Grabbing unshredded documents out of trashcans, stealing information online and brute force attacks happen all the time. The best way to stay safe from these “old-school” attacks is to shred all of your important financial documents, stay off of public Wi-Fi and to keep good, strong passwords and change them often.

Did you know we host shred events in the spring and fall? Did you also know that we host electronics recycling events in the summer? If you have documents or devices with sensitive information that you have no use for anymore, you should check them out. Stay tuned to our eNewsletters, the home page of ArsenalCU.com and our social media channels for information on upcoming events. Check out the results from our 2019 shred and eRecycling events.

Top Scams by State

Missouri

  • Computer tech support
  • Elder financial abuse
  • Jamaican lottery
  • Identity theft
  • Romance

Illinois

  • Elder financial abuse
  • Sweepstakes
  • Grandparent
  • IRS Impersonation
  • Unsolicited phone calls

More tips for avoiding scams

  • Con artists force you to make decisions fast and they may threaten you.
  • Con artists disguise their real numbers, using fake caller IDs.
  • Con artists sometimes pretend to be government agencies.
  • Con artists try to get you to provide them personal information like your Social Security number or account numbers.
  • Before giving out your credit card number or money, ask a friend or family member about it.
  • Beware of offers of free travel.