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Identity theft has become a huge problem in the United States. The FTC recently reported that identity theft was the number one complaint again last year for the eighth consecutive year! There are literally thousands of scams out there, and you're probably familiar with most of them, but new scams are getting more sophisticated as people get savvier.

Here are the top scams you may not know about..

Tax and Rebate Scams

The Scam: Consumers get a call or e-mail claiming to be from a government agency, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration, that asks for personal information to process a rebate check. These crooks ask consumers to provide personal information like their social security number, bank account number, or other details they can use to commit identity theft. If they resist giving out information, they're told they cannot receive the rebate unless the information is provided.

The Don'ts: Never give sensitive information to anyone over the phone or email. If you get a suspicious email, delete it immediately. Don't click on any links either, for they might take you to a phishing site or install spyware on your computer. Keep in mind that most government agencies don't collect information by phone or email. The FTC recommends you contact the IRS or SSA directly if you have any questions or concerns. To learn more about other tax scams check out the IRS Top 2008 "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams.

Cheap Electronics Scam

The Scam: Shopping website that appears legit sells electronic products at extremely low prices. The site is so sophisticated, even the most savvy consumer will have a hard time telling it's a fake. One recent article on PCMag, mentions these scamming sites may be part of a bigger network, since they all have a $500 minimum purchase requirement, and may ask for payment in the form of a Western Union money order to be mailed to a foreign address.

The Signs: Things a like a foreign address, a $500 minimum purchase, or the lack of a secure payment transaction form should raise red flags. A site may appear legitimate, but if you have a hard time recognizing the validity of the website, watch out for things like a new domain registration, questionable contact information, grammatical and spelling errors, a no return policy, and untraceable payment methods. Do do some research online because chances are others may already be expressing their concerns on forums or blogs.

Chatroom Scams

The Scam: Russian cyber-crooks have developed a software robot that poses as a human in chatrooms. These bots can chat with up to 10 people simultaneously, and easily persuade them to hand over phone numbers, photographs, birthday, address, and other personal information. The site claims "Not a single girl has yet realized that she was communicating with a program!" Information harvested by these bots can be used by fraudsters to carry out various forms of fraud. Unsuspecting victims may also be tricked into visiting a 'personal site' that could load malware onto their computers. Sergei Shevchenko, Senior Malware Analyst at PC Tools said CyberLover, "employs highly intelligent and customized dialogue to target users of social networking systems. It can monitor Internet browser activity, automatically recognize and fill in the fields in the web pages, generate keystrokes and mouse clicks, and post messages, URLs, files and photos."

The Dont's: Common sense says never, ever give out personal information to anyone you just met online.

Local Charity Scams

The Scam: Fraudsters claiming to be from the local police department or DARE program are calling or approaching private citizens and businesses soliciting donations purporting to benefit police officers. What's convincing some people into handing over personal and financial information to these imposters is the spoofed number that pops up in the caller ID. Police say many victims have reported a phone number that appears to be from the local police department, so don't be fooled.

The Do's: If you want to support the local police or fire department, find out when they hold their annual fund drives. Most departments don't solicit donations via telephone, so it's best to check out their site to find out when and how they seek donations.

Cancer Cure Scam

The Scam: As more people turn to the web for medical advice, they're encountering websites that advertise natural products they claim will prevent or cure everything from cancer to diabetes. Scammers know people are searching for natural remedies online, so they exaggerate the language on their site, and even add a few medical terms to sound legitimate. Oftentimes, they'll claim their supplies are not sold anywhere else, and sell them at a high price. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a miracle cure for cancer, but these scammers will have you believe there is, and will even discourage you from taking real medicine. The reality is many of these products are not proven, effective, or safe, and the sites are full of false testimonials.

The Do's: Canada has already started to crack down on such sites, demanding they remove any false claims quickly. Andrea Rosen, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Canada's Competition Bureau, says consumers should be skeptical of health-related products or services that look too good to be true. People should talk to their doctor before trying any new treatment. Check out the Anatomy of an Online Health Scam before you buy medicine online.




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