The best way to combat scammers is knowing the way they work and the cons they try to pull. We at your Better Business Bureau, are encouraging Idahoans to take note of the top scams that hit our state in the last year to better avoid them in 2019.

With more than 800 local scams reported to BBB’s Scam Tracker in 2018, here are the scams that targeted residents of the Gem State the most and how to spot them:

1. Tax collections

While we are getting better at recognizing it, the threatening phone calls keep coming. This was the most reported scam in 2018. Remember: the IRS does not make threatening phone calls, will not solicit personal information over the phone or by email and does not accept payment in gift cards.

2. Phishing

These scams can come in the form of prize offers, threatened punishments or something completely mundane like a file from the office scanner. If something seems suspicious, confirm it by contacting the company directly.

3. Online purchases

This scam comes in various forms. From fake websites to counterfeit goods to free trial traps and more, online purchase scams are everywhere. Make sure to shop with reputable websites, read all terms and conditions and be wary of offers that are “too good to be true.”

4. Debt collections

This is one of the most frightening and persistent scam types, where phony debt collectors harass you for weeks, trying to get you to pay a debt you don’t even owe. If don’t have any outstanding debts, hang up and check your credit report.

5. Tech support

Scammers pose as tech support employees of well-known computer companies and hassle victims into paying for their “support.”

Look out for phone calls, emails and pop-ups claiming you have a virus. Never give remote access to your computer.

6. Sweepstakes/lottery/prizes

This scam claims you’ve won a new car, a dream vacation or a large lump sum of cash — in a contest you’ve never entered. You should never have to pay upfront fees to claim a prize.

7. Fake check/ money order

This “overpayment scam” comes in different forms where the scammer may be interested in something you’re selling online, “hiring” you for a job or telling you that you’ve won a prize.

In all cases the amount of the check is “accidentally” far more than initially agreed on and you’re instructed to send back the difference — which leaves your account before you realize the check was fraudulent. Remember, even if your checking account says the check has cleared, it can still take weeks for your bank to discover the check was a fake.

8. Employment

Don’t let the stress of looking for a new job make you vulnerable to scams. Be wary of on-the-spot offers or any payment required for an opportunity or training.

9. Government grant

This scam promises you free money in the form of a government grant.

All you have to do is pay a fee. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee and will not award you money that you have not applied for.

10. Utility

In this con, scammers impersonate water, electric and gas company representatives. They frequently threaten residents and business owners with deactivation of service. Don’t give in to the pressure to pay immediately; hang up and call the customer service number on your bill.

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