Scams are on the rise and scammers have become very creative in finding new ways to steal money, rip off sensitive personal and financial information – and even gain access to your online social media accounts.
Reports of consumer fraud have increase by more than 60 percent since 2008, while online scams have doubled from just over 20 percent of all fraud in 2007 to nearly 40 percent in 2011, according to an AARP study, “Caught in the Scammer’s Net,” published in March.
Sixty-five percent of respondents in the AARP study said they received at least one or more fraudulent online offers in the year preceding the survey.
The first step to successfully avoid becoming the victim of a scam, of course, is to be aware of what’s currently affecting consumers. Here are four scams that are currently rattling consumers throughout the country:
- E-ZPass phishing scam: Consumers are reporting bogus toll violation notices sent by email, alerting them that they’ve failed to pay for driving on toll roads. The email leads them to a link to download their invoice. If consumers click on it, the document spreads viruses to their computers. Drivers should know that legitimate notices are sent by mail, not email.
- Hotel credit card scam: A scammer calls a hotel and asks to be connected to a specific room number. If it happens to be your room, the person on the line pretends to be the front desk and to have problems with your credit card information, asking to you to read your credit card numbers and to verify the last three digits on the back of your card.
The New York Police Department advises going to the hotel’s front desk to clear up any problems if you receive such a phone call.
- Facebook “color change” app scam: This malicious app that promises to let you pick a different color scheme for your Facebook layout actually redirects you to a phishing site. It also asks you to watch a tutorial video on how to use the color changer app – but it actually steals your Facebook access tokens, allowing hackers temporary access your Facebook friends. This scam has already impacted more than 10,000 people in several countries, says PC Magazine.
- IRS phone scam: The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a warning about bogus phone calls to taxpayers demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. This isn’t a new scam – the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received 90,000 complaints to date – but it isn’t going away. The IRS reminds taxpayers that it never asks for credit and debit card information over the phone and that it never requests immediate payment over the phone either.
The Federal Trade Commission has a list of 10 ways consumers can avoid fraud and scams. Some of the most basic tips include not sending money to someone you don’t know and not replying to messages asking for personal and financial information.
The FTC also advises consumers to report scams by filing a complaint with the FTC and with your state attorney general.
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