Scammers are creating even more conniving ways to perpetrate money scams. And in 2016, the use of microchip credit and debit cards, as well as the 2016 presidential elections, might provide new channels for scammers to manipulate unsuspecting citizens.
Here are five types of money scams, old and new, you'll likely encounter next year.
1. Charity and Home Improvement Impersonators
Some of the most common scams are the ones that involve impersonators. For example, charity scams might involve groups or individuals who claim to be raising money for a charity. These people might even dress the part to beguile unsuspecting consumers or passersby.
Robert Siciliano is a bestselling author and identity theft expert. According to him, "such scams can operate ringstyle, such as one out in Colorado some years ago in which women wearing crisp white dresses that resemble the dresses nurses used to wear, and also wearing white caps, like a nurse, solicited motorists for money by walking around at stoplights holding out tin cans that had a label on them like 'Help Fight Drugs.' Many people were fooled by the white outfits and labeled cans."
Siciliano suggested verifying the legitimacy of an organization before donating money by checking with either the Better Business Bureau or websites like Charity Navigator. Similarly, if you're thinking of employing someone to do any type of work, Siciliano's advice is to "stick with bonded, insured, reputable companies. Refer to Angie's List or the Better Business Bureau."
Home improvement scams are another type of scam that involves an impersonator. "Someone appears at your door wearing a workman's outfit and offers to do a job for a dirt cheap fee," explained Siciliano. "They want the money upfront and will return later to do the work or some variant of this." Think they'll come back? Think again.
Mike Glanz, CEO of HireAHelper.com, said there is a growing scam involving home removal services. "The U.S. federal government reported that 36 million people moved between 2012 and 2013, and one in 10 people who move report that their moving company is holding their furniture 'hostage' for suddenly higher service fees," he said.
"Many consumers are turning to a new approach to moving called 'hybrid moving'... it takes from the two most common ways to move: 1) the DIY method and 2) the fullservice method," he said. According to him, hybrid moving allows customers to maintain control of their belongings by renting their own transportation and just hiring laborers to do the heavy lifting.
2. Email and Phishing Scams
Many email scams involve phishing, which is when a scammer will try to get you to click on a link in an email. That link might take you to a website that wants to gather your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number. Or, you might click on the link and get a virus.
Siciliano described one type of email scam: "You receive an e-mail that seems to be from a legitimate company, like your bank, the IRS, UPS, etc. In the message is a link that you click. You just downloaded a virus." Siciliano said to never click on a link in an email. Instead, contact the company by phone.
Another example of an email scam is the "sob story." According to Siciliano, "You get an e-mail that seems to be from someone you know. They're overseas, got mugged, sob sob... and [they] need you to wire them money. Don't send them a penny; it's a scam."
And lastly, most people have seen the emails or websites that scream "You've won!" "So you click the link in the e-mail to claim your prize, which is a nice fat virus that infects your computer," said Siciliano. "Run like the wind if the message tells you that you need to pay a fee to claim your winnings."
3. Telephone Scams: Election Donations, Jury Duty and Health Care
Scammers will try any channel of communication to reach a potential victim. For most people, it can be quite difficult to determine whether a person is legitimate, particularly if the person is caught off guard and preoccupied with other things when they answer the phone.
Wade Barnes, senior vice president for 1st Mariner Bank, predicts there will be an increase in email and phone scams associated with the upcoming 2016 presidential elections. And according to him, it will be hard for people to determine the real representatives who will call to request donations from the fraudulent ones.
"I would suggest using your caller ID as a reference point, and if there is any uncertainty, ask for a callback number," he said. "Better yet, if you'd like to donate to a political campaign, I would go to their website - check for the 'https://authentication' - and donate there or follow instructions as to where you can mail a check."
Siciliano described a telephone scam that involves scaring people into paying for something for fear of legal repercussions. "Your phone rings, you answer," he said. "The caller tells you that you'll be subject to fines because you didn't show up for jury duty. But relax, you can avoid the fines by providing personal information or paying a fee."
Realistically, courts are too busy to call those who miss jury duty, and they wouldn't fine someone who has been approved to get out of jury duty. "Although failing to report for jury duty does have consequences," said Siciliano, "the action is never initiated via phone."
Health care is another example of a telephone scam described by Siciliano: "Someone calls you offering to help you sign up for health care. Hang up; it's a crook because government officials don't do this."
Other telephone scams prey on your desire to find out who might be trying to reach you. In this type of scam, "your cell phone rings once. You don't recognize the number. You call back," said Siciliano. "You then get charged about $20. Whatever happens after a connection is made, you'll also be charged a high fee per minute."
Siciliano's advice? Ignore one-ring calls. If it's important, they'll call back. Also, never give any personal information to anyone over the phone unless it's a call that you initiated and are sure of the person at the other end.
4. Computer and Internet Scams
Despite passwords and information technology security, scammers still find ways to penetrate networks for internet scams. Siciliano described what he calls "computer lockout." In this scam, "you turn on your computer and see a message stating the device is locked," he explained. "To unlock it, you're told to provide sensitive information. Contact your security software provider or a local geek instead."
Also, you'll want to be careful when using free WiFi at public places like Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, free WiFi is risky because data is vulnerable to hackers when you log onto a free WiFi network. "Always use a VPN (virtual private network) such as Hotspot Shield to encrypt your data over free WiFi," said Siciliano.
5. Credit Card Scams: Microchip and EMV Cards
Credit card fraud can be committed by anyone who obtains access to your credit card. According to Scambusters.org, even a waiter in a restaurant could copy down your credit card information and use it later to make purchases. Microchip credit and debit cards, EMV cards, are currently being distributed by banks, and they're designed to make transactions secure and reduce debit and credit card fraud.
"Delays in distributing the new cards ... are being exploited by scammers...," said Scambusters.org founder Audri Lanford. "The problems are that some card issuers have not yet sent them out to their customers while other issuers haven't fully explained in understandable language why their cards have been changed," she said. "Either way, this gives scammers a golden opportunity to phone or email people explaining that their cards need to be updated or replaced and then ask them to confirm card and account details."
Lanford explained that scammers are committing identity theft with the information they are getting from confused consumers. What's more, "the same processes are being used by crooks every time there's news of a security breach in which retailers' computer systems have been hacked," she said. "Again, the scammers pretend to be from the credit card company or even the retailer, asking for confirmation of card numbers."
To protect yourself from these credit card scams, Lanford said, "When you get your chip card, as with any other new credit or debit card, it will be accompanied by instructions on how to activate it. This is the only confirmation action you need to take, and usually you will not be asked to re-key your card number."