CHICAGO, Dec. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As 2015 closes, it's the same old story: another 750 documented data breaches roughly the same as in 2014. But this year's data shows at least 178 million Americans, up from 160 million in 2014, have been victims of fraud or scams at some point during the year. AARP Fraud Watch Network data shows Americans have a huge problem with scammers using technology to target unsuspecting victims and steal their identities or hard-earned money. Unfortunately, only about one in ten older victims ever report being scammed to law enforcement officials.
Thankfully, tens of thousands of Americans have shared scams with AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline in 2015, so that you can learn about how to protect yourself. This year, our network fielded approximately 15,000 phone calls, while other reports flooded the Fraud Watch Network website.
The top scams of 2015 nearly mirrors the 2014 list, so chances are, these scams are not going away. As we close out the year, protect yourself and your hard-earned money from the following top scams:
- IRS Imposters: This remains the nation's biggest scam: phone calls from fraudsters posing as IRS agents who threaten arrest, deportation or seizure of property or businesses unless immediate payment is made for alleged back taxes. Recently, bogus mailing and faxes have been added. Remember, the real IRS does not call out-of-the-blue nor demand immediate payment, especially by prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
- Tech Support Scam: These imposters, claiming to be from Microsoft and other tech companies and lying about supposed computer viruses, also claim the most victims among older adults. By year's end, some 3.3 million Americans have paid an estimated $1.5 billion to these fraudsters for bogus "tech support" and, in the process, have given these scammers remote access to their computer files and passwords for possible identity theft.
- Foreign Lotteries: You cannot win some far-away lottery you did not enter. "You win" phone calls, letters, or emails are scams. If you ever win a legitimate lottery, you never have to pay taxes, processing fees or anything else upfront to collect. And that received "partial payment" check is counterfeit; in fact, you're on the hook for funds drawn from its deposit.
- Sweepstakes: Different type of contest, but same instructions…and outcome. You are told you need to pay in order to collect your prize be it cash or merchandise. But the prize never comes. The ruse aims for upfront taxes and fees under the guise of winning the Publishers Clearing House.
- Grandparents Scam. What ignites more fear and sense of urgency that a desperate call from a loved one in trouble? But it's not grandchildren or other relatives calling; it's scammers who glean names and family details online or simply let you fill in holes with generic greetings, as in "Hi, it's your favorite grandchild and I need help!"
In 2014, AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network to arm Americans with the tools and resources they need to spot and avoid scams and identity theft. But scammers are still out there, making every attempt possible to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money. The public can sign up for free to receive Fraud Watch Network alerts and more at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
SOURCE AARP Illinois