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Here's how to spot the scam before you get ripped off

Consumer Reports digs through popular schemes to help protect you

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We know the Nigerian prince asking us for money is a scam -- that's an easy one! But while some scams may be easier to detect than others, it doesn't mean you could never fall for one.

According to Consumer Reports, data show that everyone, regardless of age or gender, has the potential to be scammed. And like everything else, scams have moved into the digital space.

Consumer Reports dove into some of the latest schemes to help protect you in a growing world of threats. 

"Smishing" scam

The latest scam hitting mobile phones is called "smishing." You get a fake text saying there’s a problem with something like your bank account. If you respond to the text, the scammer will know the number is viable and may contact you to get more personal information.

Never click on a link in an email or text without first confirming that it’s from someone you trust. And if you get a phone call from someone asking for information and it sounds even remotely fishy, hang up.

"Shimmer" scam

It's not just skimmers anymore, now there are shimmers. Experts say they are harder to detect than skimmers, as they are paper thin, card-sized gadgets that scam-artists install on ATM machines or gas pumps that have chip card readers.

Consumer Reports reminds you that ATMs installed at a bank tend to be a lot safer than the kind you might find at a convenience store, which can be so much more easily tampered with.

"Tech-support" fraud

Tech-support fraud remains a threat. Your computer freezes, and a pop-up tells you immediately to call a number for tech support. You’re then connected to a fraudulent technician who might ask for remote access to your device.

Consumer Reports says do not click on any suspicious pop-ups, and never give remote access to your device to anyone you don’t know and absolutely trust.  

"IRS impersonation" scam

Hands down, one of the most common and recurring scams reported to the News4Jax I-TEAM and newsroom is the IRS impersonation scam. The scammer claims you owe money to the IRS and threatens to arrest you if you don't pay, often demanding you use a specific payment, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.

The IRS says, generally, it will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes money, but emphasizes it will never do the following:

  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
  • Call you about an unexpected refund

If you get a call like this, the IRS says don't give out any information, and hang up immediately. If you believe you have been a victim of an IRS impersonation scam, you can report it here.

To be on the safe side, if you're not certain whether you owe taxes or not, you can find out directly from the IRS by calling the agency at (800) 829-1040.

Consumer Reports: What to do if you're a victim

If you think you’re a victim of fraud, Consumer Reports says you need to immediately report it to the police, an essential step if you want to make an insurance claim for stolen property.

You also want to make sure to report compromised credit or debit card information to your bank.

Consumer Reports has a detailed step-by-step process to take if you are a scam or fraud victim, along with details to help you know which agency you should report the scam or fraud to.  You can find that here.

Consumer Reports: 5 traits that might make you an easy mark

You may be wondering who is falling for these scams? Well, it may not be who you think. Consumer Reports says it's millennials -- not seniors -- who are most vulnerable, with some more susceptible than others. 

Consumer Reports says there are five traits that might make you an easy mark. Those more vulnerable are:

1. Eager for bargains

2. Susceptible to persuasion

3. Lacking a defensive strategy

4. Willing to take risks

5. Facing a rough patch

Read about each personality trait and learn why Consumer Reports says any one of them might make you an easy mark here

Consumer Reports: Scam quiz

How savvy are you about scams? Consumer Reports has put together a quiz to test your knowledge of common scams and also see how you can protect yourself from being conned.

You can take the Consumer Reports quiz here.