Help Me Hank: Top scams of 2015

Beware Top Scams of 2015

Detroit – Many Metro-Detroiters have called Help Me Hank to complain about scams making the round in our area. In fact, scam complaints seem to have been on the rise over the past four years.


The Better Business Bureau recently launched its own Scam Tracker and has released the Top 10 Scams of 2015. Share this information with friends and family, so they know which scams to guard against.


"The IRS scam is probably one that will be around forever," said Melanie Duquesnel, CEO of the local office of the Better Business Bureau, during an interview with Help Me Hank in the spring of 2015. Her prediction was right on target, according to the BBB's Scam Tracker.


"IRS scams, in general, can probably be the most scary situation because it's the government coming after you," Duquesnel said.


Even the folks at the Better Business Bureau were surprised by just how common the IRS Scam has become.


In 2015, the agency logged more than 2,400 complaints about that con. It's an easy scam to avoid if you remember one thing, the IRS and other government agencies do not call you, out-of-the-blue, demanding immediate payment. Don't fall for that claim! If you're really nervous, find a legitimate number for the IRS and get more information.


Other commons scams


In fact, the IRS Scam (2,413) has more complaints that the next three scams on the list combined: Debt collection (835), Fake Sweepstakes (811), and Tech Support (608).


Help Me Hank has covered the Tech Support scam in the past. The scammers prey on your fears about your computer and all the personal information stored within. 


"The computer caller is saying that your computer is infected, and will call you repeatedly and try to get you to fall for it," said Duquesnel. Don't fall for this one either! Legitimate computer companies don't call you, unsolicited, offering to make repairs.


And, remember legitimate contests or sweepstakes don't go looking for you to give away money. No one has ever won a contest they didn't take some action to enter.


"Recognize that some large organizations are not going to be out there randomly calling people saying, 'Guess what, you're a gazzillionaire!'" said Duquesnel.

Here's the rest of the Top 10 Scams:


Government Grants   574

Advance Fee Loans  388

Credit Cards               306

Work From Home      261

Fake Checks              242

Lottery                         241


About the individual scams:

1. Tax Scam: You receive a phone call from someone who claims to be with the IRS (U.S.) or CRA (Canada). They claim you owe money in back taxes and will be arrested or face legal consequences if you do not pay (usually by wire or prepaid debit card). The caller ID is spoofed to appear to be a government agency or the police. 


2. Debt Collection Scam: You receive a phone call from someone claiming that you have an unpaid debt. You are threatened with garnishments, lawsuits, even jail time if you don’t pay right now. The scammer will often use caller ID spoofing and pretend to be a government agency or law enforcement in order to further invoke fear.


3. Sweepstakes/Prizes/Gifts Scam: You receive a call, letter, or email claiming you’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes. In order to receive the prize, you are instructed to send a fee to cover expenses associated with delivery, processing, or insurance. The prize is not real; you should never have to pay money to claim a prize you have won.


4. Tech Support Scam: You are contacted by “technicians” claiming to have detected a virus or security threat on your computer and, for a fee, can log-in and correct the problem remotely. These callers are actually hackers trying to steal money or sensitive computer passwords and/or damage computers with malicious software.


5. Government Grant Scam: You receive a phone call, email, or letter informing you that you’ve qualified for a government grant. In order to receive the grant, however, you are instructed to send money as a processing or delivery fee, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.


6. Advance Fee Loan Scam: While searching for loan information, you see an enticing ad and click through to the website. You fill out an application and soon receive an email or phone call advising that you are approved for the loan, but you must first send a processing fee, security deposit or insurance. You pay the “fee,” but never see the loan. 


7. Credit Cards Scam: The scammer pretends to be from your bank or credit card issuer, and they claim that you are now eligible for a lower interest rate, or that they need to verify a recent transaction. The consumer provides the scammer with their credit card number and security code to “verify” their identity.


8. Work from Home Scam: While looking for a job online, you answer an ad for making big bucks while working from home. The job may be stuffing envelopes, posting advertisements, or shipping packages. You could have your identity stolen when you fill out the employment forms, or even end up handling stolen merchandise.


9. Fake Check/Money Order Scam: This can happen any time someone is paying you for goods or services (even when you are selling something online). You receive a check in the mail that is larger than the amount owed, and you are asked to deposit the check and wire the difference. The check is a fake and when it bounces, you're out the money. 


10. Lottery scam: You receive a call, letter, or email advising that you have won a large amount of money in a foreign lottery, but you have to pay upfront for taxes and fees. Such lotteries are illegal. Sometimes you may be sent a check as partial payment, but the check will be counterfeit.


What you can do:

  • Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
  • Take time to research the organization. Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
  • Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
  • Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
  • If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
  • Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person. 
  • Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.


For more information:

  • For scam information go to BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam )
  • Report scams (whether or not you’ve lost money) to BBB Scam Tracker
  • For information on investment scams, go to BBB Smart Investing
  • To search for a business in the U.S. or Canada, or to find your local BBB, go to BBB.org
  • For information on charities, go to Give.org (BBB Wise Giving Alliance)