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Voice of the consumer: The worst scams of 2015

By: betty sexton KKTV11 News
January 4, 2016 Updated: January 4, 2016 at 6:25 am
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photo - Betty Sexton
Betty Sexton 

People often ask me which scams are the worst. That's easy - the ones that never go away.

Every week we hear from you about the IRS scam. It occupies the No. 1 spot in my book. Crooks who leave cryptic messages telling you that you owe money to Uncle Sam are the worst. They threaten you with going to court, being thrown in jail, or losing your house for not paying income taxes. It's a fraud. If agents believe you owe money, you'll first get a notice in the U.S. Mail asking you to call them. The IRS will never leave messages demanding that you pay up or else. So far, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says victims have lost more than $15 million since this scam surfaced two years ago.

The scheme that takes the No. 2 spot is the grandparent scam. This one preys upon the good intentions of grandparents who are told their grandchildren are in trouble. Two people perpetrate this fraud by phone, one playing the part of the sad and injured grandchild, and the other pretending to be a law enforcement figure who relays how the cash should be sent. Grandparents are told the grandchild's phone is dead and are asked not to contact any other family member. They aren't given time to think about the demands, simply to send the cash by wiring money or buying a reloadable debit card and passing on the card information to crooks. I've talked to locals who have lost as much as $50,000 to these bad guys. The best advice is to contact the grandchild directly or ask the alleged grandchild on the phone a question that only family knows. That usually stumps them and gets them to go away.

The Publishers Clearing House Giveaway scam is No. 3 on the "worst scams" list. I've talked to people who have lost upwards of $40,000 to this con U.S. Postal Inspectors say is a favorite among crooks in Jamaica. They reportedly go online collecting information about their victims, searching for those who have recently lost a loved one. The congratulatory calls are designed to slowly wear down people's resistance, earning their trust and their savings. Just remember, PCH never calls winners and asks them to pay upfront taxes or fees before collecting their prize. The real Prize Patrol always shows up unannounced at your doorstep.

Impostors who fool folks with tech support scams come in at fourth place. They either call and say they're with Microsoft and have detected a virus on your computer or they wait for you to open an attachment or click on a phony pop up. Your computer screen turns blue and you panic, calling the number that is displayed on your monitor. If a stranger claims your computer system is infected, hang up or you could lose $300 or more.

My goal in 2016 is to keep spreading the word about these malicious scams. Screen your calls and don't answer suspicious calls, even if it appears that your own number is calling you.

It's a con artist spoofing your number, trying to get you to pick up. Question suspicious calls, emails, and notices in the mail.

If you need help, contact our 11 Call for Action team at 457-8211. We're here to help and want you to hang on to your hard-earned cash, not lose it to fraudsters.

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Contact Betty Sexton at bsexton@kktv.com or 578-0000

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