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fish hook and money

As fraudsters enjoy more success and scams become more prolific, the likelihood of any one person getting duped is going up. And it isn’t just the elders that are being scammed. The Federal Trade Commission said that consumers reported losing a total of nearly $488 million to all types of imposter scams in 2018—more than any other type of fraud—and reported a median loss of $500. According to the report, 40% of people in their 20s reporting fraud lost money, while only 18% of those in their 70s lost money.

With fraud and scams so rampant, just how does one protect themselves and their money from being syphoned away? The best answer is to be aware. Know what types of scams are going around and which ones occur most often. Here are some of the most prevalent scams today.

IRS scam

This scam begins with a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service. They say you owe money for unpaid taxes and if you don’t pay immediately – through a gift card, prepaid debit card, or money transfer – someone will come arrest you. They rely on fear to get you to pay up. Don’t believe them. The IRS will never call you and demand payment. It’s best to just hang up.

Prize/sweepstakes scam

You are notified by phone, text, mail or email that you have just won money or a prize in a contest that you don’t remember entering. To claim your prize, you are asked to pay a fee, for insurance, taxes, bank charges or courier fees. And you must do so immediately, or else you will miss out. That’s where they get you. You didn’t win a prize. They just want you to send them the “fees.”

Fake job scam

You are searching for a job and find the most amazing work-from-home position. Your new employer sends you a check to get set up. You are to deposit the check to your bank account, send half back to your new employer, and spend the rest on equipment to do your new job. A week after you deposit the check, it bounces and you now have to pay back your bank the entire amount.

Sweetheart scam

They say love is blind, and in the case of the sweetheart scam, it really is. It usually happens with online dating, targeting older people who are more likely to have assets, and be lonely. The way it works is the scammer uses a dating website, connects with their target, sends photographs of a very good-looking young woman or man, depending who their target is, and begins an online relationship. The victim falls in love as the relationship continues. At some point, the scammer comes up with a tragedy story that requires an outlay of money to sort it out. As the victim is now in love, they readily part with their cash. This scenario plays out over and over until the victim’s money is depleted.

If you use internet dating sites, stick to the larger, better known ones. Be wary of overseas relationships, as the scammers are typically outside the US. If you have doubts about your online romantic interest, ask a friend or family member to help you verify the person’s legitimacy.

The Medicare card scam

To help protect elderly from identity theft, the US Government in April 2018 began sending out new Medicaid cards that come with a randomly generated identification number, instead of the enrollee’s social security number. However, com artists have been calling Medicare beneficiaries asking for them to pay for their new card. Or they say that the Medicare recipient is due a refund and ask for bank account information. The new Medicare card is free. No refunds are owed. Medicare will never call you and ask for your bank account information.

This is a short list of all the scams out there. The takeaway here is to use common sense. Don’t let your emotions (fear, excitement, love) rule your actions. If something is to good to be true, it probably is. If you are a victim of a scam, contact your local authorities and report it to the Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistance.