Below are the 2016 scam reports by type from the Better Business Bureau region covering Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas plains and southwest Iowa. They are listed by scam Type, number of reports, percentage and the percentage from last year.
• Tax scams (IRS and CRA) – 7,530, 25.0, 24.0
• Debt collections – 2,456, 8.2, 8.3
• Sweepstakes/prizes/gifts) – 2,102, 7.0, 8.0
• Online purchase – 1,891, 6.3, Not applicable (due to changes in how the figures are totaled)
• Employment – 1,773, 5.9, Not applicable (due to changes in how the figures are totaled)
• Government grant – 1,453, 4.8, 5.7
• Tech support – 1,382, 4.6, 6.0
• Advance fee loan) – 965, 3.2, 3.8
• Fake check/money order – 872, 2.9, 2.4
• Phishing – 776, 2.6, Not applicable (due to changes in how the figures are totaled)
In May, it was reported that the Barton County Treasurer’s Office fell for a scam by sending money to a bank in Georgia, ultimately costing the county over $14,000.
Also that month, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir assured residents that his office was not collecting money for the Internal Revenue Service.
These are just two examples of how close scams have come to the Golden Belt. Law enforcement officials can attest to the fact that they get called on a regular basis.
So, as 2016 ends and 2017 begins, the Better Business Bureau has released a list of the top scams from the past year. Reports to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016 confirmed that tax scams are still the top scam, despite a huge drop in reports after a September police raid in Mumbai, India.
The BBB’s list was compiled based on more than 30,000 scam reports filed by consumers on bbb.org/scamtracker, a free interactive online tool launched last year by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. Not all of those consumers lost money, as many recognized the scam before being victimized but reported it anyway to help warn others.
The top three scams on the 2016 list – tax scams, debt collection scams and sweepstakes/prizes/gifts scams – were the same as in 2015. New to the top 10 are online purchase scams (fourth) and phishing scams (10th). Online purchase scams were common in 2015 as well, but this scam type was not added as a BBB Scam Tracker category until 2016.
Employment scams (fifth) are also new to the top 10, but only because work-from-home scams, previously a separate category, were included. Another change was the drop of tech support scams from fourth last year to seventh this year.
BBB encourages consumers to learn how to recognize scams and to avoid them by following these ten simple steps:
1 Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. And really, really don’t do it if they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card (those cannot be traced and are as good as cash).
2. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer and/or steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it could be fake.
3. Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Even Caller ID can be faked.
4. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shady. Check out the company first at bbbinc.org. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you are not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods.
5. Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, Craigslist, social media, and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con to get you to trust them.
6. Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social Security.
7. Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend, or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
8. Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes, and debts. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card, or other non-traditional payment method. Say no to cash-only deals, high pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments, and handshake deals without a contract.
9. Whenever possible, work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, especially contractors who will be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Check them out at bbbinc.org to see what other consumers have experienced.
10. Be cautious about what you share on social media and consider only connecting with people you already know. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions, and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.