With the start of a new year, scammers are preparing to steal money from a sea of new victims. With that in mind, we've assembled a list of five of the most common scams, as determined by the Better Business Bureau.
1. IRS SCAMS
Phony IRS calls have declined slightly since September, but the BBB anticipates calls will increase again in January, ahead of tax season. Frequently, con artists will pose as IRS employees and threaten victims with prosecution if they fail to wire money.
2. DEBT COLLECTION SCAMS
Debt collection scams remained a mainstay among scammers in 2016, and experts believe they will continue during the new year. Like IRS scammers, fake debt collectors call consumers and demand payment, often in a threatening manner.
3. LOTTERY, SWEEPSTAKES AND GIFT SCAMS
Despite increased awareness, thousands of victims continue to fall for lottery and sweepstakes scams each year. Often, scammers will tell victims they won money and ask them to wire the taxes in return.
4. EMPLOYMENT SCAMS
Despite improving employment rates in 2016, employment scams still made the top five list because many consumers remain underemployed and are seeking part-time jobs. Scammers prey on that economic hardship, offering victims work as secret shoppers or promoters who agree to wrap their vehicles with advertising logos for a third party. In the case of the vehicle wrap technique, the con artists often send fake checks for $1000 and demand $300 back to pay for the wrapping. Soon after, the check will bounce and the victim will have lost $300 to the scammer.
5. ONLINE PURCHASE SCAMS
Rounding out the top five list, scammers frequently sell fake merchandise online and pocket the money. If you are buying something online, make sure to use reputable websites and always look for the "https" at the start of the web address in your browser.
Better Business Bureau Regional Director Adam Price said these scams only continue because they are working. In fact, the BBB estimates nearly one in five people lose money to a scam each year with annual losses of approximately $50 billion.
Major news events like severe weather or the upcoming presidential inauguration are prime scam opportunities for con artists.
"Any current event, whether it's a natural disaster or a current political event, is an opportunity for con men and scam artists to strike when the iron is hot. So, if there's something that's in the news, you can bet that there's somebody behind a computer screen trying to take advantage of you," Price said.
The Better Business Bureau did a study in 2016, which found millennials were even more likely than senior citizens to be conned because they grew up with the technology scammers are most frequently using these days.