PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Now that 2015 has come to a close, the Better Business Bureau has released its list of the top scams from the past year.
The BBB introduced its Scam Tracker in 2015, and since then complaints from all over the United States and Canada have been flooding in.
According to experts, the scheme that topped 2015’s list – IRS tax impostors – should remain on consumers’ radar throughout 2016.
The Better Business Bureau said it expected IRS impostors to appear on 2015’s list of schemes – but what the bureau didn’t expect was just how high it would rank.
Over 2,400 IRS schemes have been reported since the agency launched its tracker, making nearly a quarter of all grievances filed with the BBB IRS-related.
During these schemes, consumers reported receiving phone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS. The caller usually tells the consumer that they own back taxes and threatens jail time if they do not pay the money. Typically, the culprits will require people to make a wire payment or use a prepaid debit card immediately.
Eyewitness News spoke to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit on Monday about how the impostors operate.
“They instill fear in people and when people are nervous and they’re unsure and thinking perhaps they do owe money,” explained Martha Crippen of the Consumer Protection Unit.
Crippen said she isn’t surprised that IRS impostors claimed the first spot on the BBB’s list. Last year in Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office received so many complaints, the office had to issue five consumer alerts.
According to Crippen, 2015 was the year of the data breach and with so much personal information floating around, criminals took advantage and targeted consumers.
“In most of those data breaches they don’t have all of your personal info, but probably enough info that they’re able to track people down,” Crippen said.
When it comes to IRS impostors, it is important to remember a few things:
- First, the IRS will never call you or send you an email. Real IRS inquiries will come via postal mail.
- Second, if you do get a call – don’t panic. According to the AG’s office, consumers shouldn’t be intimidated by these types of calls – and never be afraid to hang up the phone.
- Finally, be aware that the criminals in question are likely stationed elsewhere in the world. If you do hand over money, the AG’s office has no jurisdiction in international situations and chances are, you will not receive your money back.
For more information about these types of schemes, click here to be directed to the RI Consumer Protection Unit’s website.