MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Better Business Bureau has released a list of the top scams it uncovered in 2016.
The scams all have different names, but many work the same way.
Countless Americans have received a call from the “IRS,” including Mary Van Essendelft.
“He says to me, ‘This is the IRS,'” she recalled.
A con artist posing as an IRS agent told her if she didn’t pay her family’s taxes she’d be thrown in jail.
She ended up forking over nearly $100,000.
“He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody. Don’t call anybody, because your house is bugged,'” she explained.
The BBB says tax cons were the top reported scam of 2016.
In other popular scams, criminals pose as debt collectors, say you’ve won a sweepstakes or offer a job opportunity.
Then there were online purchase scams, where victims bought items from fake websites.
“This can really happen to anyone,” said Emma Fletcher.
Fletcher, who works for the Better Business Bureau, said the various phone scams have something in common – the con artists want money right away.
“They love to create a sense of urgency to get you into a heightened emotional state where you need to get them that money immediately,” Fletcher explained.
That’s what Linda Williams told us earlier this year.
A con artist called her claiming she’d won $50,000 but first had to wire them several upfront fees.
“I thought, eventually, I guess I hoped that this was real,” Williams said.
And the scam artists want an untraceable form of payment.
“They’re asking you to transfer money through a wire transfer service or asking you to pay with a gift card, MoneyCard, Green Dot,” Fletcher explained. “Those are big red flags.”
And experts say if someone is demanding money or if the offer sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.