Don’t Be Bamboozled By These Fast Growing Consumer Cons

The Consumer Federation of America and North American Consumer Protection Investigators recently released the top 10 consumer complaints state and local consumer protection agencies around the country received in 2015.

Three types of complaints stood out as the fastest-growing last year. Be on the lookout for these popular problems to protect yourself and your family:

1. Phony IRS agents and other imposter scams

In imposter scams, fraudsters contact you claiming to work for a government agency, such as the IRS, or a large reputable company, such as Microsoft. These imposters reach out in many ways, including by phone and email.  They often demand personal information or immediate payment through an untraceable method such as a wire transfer or iTunes card. Imposter scams use scare tactics such as threating you with a lawsuit or arrest, or telling you a virus will destroy everything you have stored on your computer, if you fail to give them what they want. And they will always make it sound urgent.

Luckily for consumers, the IRS is cracking down on tax-related imposter scams.  IRS agents will never contact you without first sending a bill in the mail and will never demand that you pay your taxes a certain way. If you receive a suspicious call, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484, or use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage.

If you get a call from someone and you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do, do not give out any information and hang up immediately.

2. Tax ID theft

Tax ID theft is when thieves use your stolen Social Security number to pose as you and claim tax refunds that you are owed. Often, the theft is only discovered after someone attempts to legitimately file their taxes and receives a notice that their Social Security number has already been used.

Take action immediately if:

  • A tax return was fraudulently filed using your Social Security number
  • You’re informed by the IRS that you owe money for a year that you did not have to file a tax return
  • IRS records indicate you were paid by an employer when you weren’t working

The IRS provides step-by-step instructions on what to do if you’re a victim of tax ID theft here.

3. Complaints about energy services

Many of the state and local agencies reported a rise in complaints concerning energy services relate to aggressive sales tactics for solar power and electricity or gas suppliers. People report being misled about potential savings, locked into lengthy contracts, or switched to a new company without their permission.

Want to learn more about the top consumer complaints or find out what to do it you have a problem? Read the report from Consumer Federation of America and North American Consumer Protection Investigators.