From phishing scams to IRS and puppy scams, how you can keep you and your cash safe

(MGN Online)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- The Internet is one of the greatest resources when it comes to connecting to the world, but lurking in your email and the social media sites that you use every day are the bad guys.

They are doing everything they can to take your money, but knowing their tricks first will keep you safe.

The Better Business Bureau said it had 785 entries into their scam tracker in 2017 and the total amount of money attempted by scammers reported to them was $311,629.

The BBB said victims reported a total loss of $51,011.

Donna Middlebrooks recently received an offer for a government grant, where someone sent her an email asking her for information including her full name and address to check to see if she was eligible for the 'IMF' bonus.

She said she felt like something was off, so she reported it.

The government grant scam is really popular right now; the Better Business Bureau actually said it's the fourth most reported scam.

"It is amazing how much money they make on this," said Julie Wheeler, with the BBB. "They wouldn't be doing it if they weren't."

The Better Business Bureau compiled all the scams reported to their online scam tracker and complaints people called in to make a list of the top scams in our area.

In at number three is the phishing scam.

It's an email that looks legitimate, maybe from your bank, UPS, or Amazon, but it asks you to click a link that will be used to steal your information.

"We're seeing more and more that the younger group, [ages 19-30], are falling for these things," Wheeler said. "Used to be you could hover and if it wasn't the site you thought it was, OK, no big deal. Now they use bitly. They use shortened versions of things so you don't know where you are going."

That's why Wheeler says she tells everyone "don't click on links."

"If you think it's legit, you go to your browser and type in the website and see if it comes up and see if it's legit," she said.

The sweepstakes scam is the second biggest scam in our area.

We all dream of winning big and that's why Wheeler said people keep falling for these types of scams.

Scammers key on these is asking for money up front, but Wheeler said don't every pay it.

And finally, the number one scam is the IRS scam.

"This one has been very successful with the crooks because you get people's attention," Wheeler said. "The IRS is not going to call you. If they have a problem they are going to send you a letter. And they are never going to ask you to pay money over the phone."

She said year after year, this scam tops the list as the one most people fall victim to.

From those phone calls from the IRS to text messages, as we move into 2018 the BBB predicts scammers are going to find new ways to use your smart phone against you.

"Used to be you got a text message, you knew it was important, you knew it was somebody you needed to contact," Wheeler said. "Now we've seen texting used a little bit, maybe a warning from your bank that your account has been compromised, 'click here.' Again don't click on those links."

Another popular scam the BBB wanted to warn you about its the puppy scam (link goes to a fake website), which is starting to emerge in our area.

People overseas are setting up websites, saying they are from our area, with purebred puppies and ask for a deposit, but once you pay up you never get the dog.

If you have been the victim of one of these scams, you can file a complaint online here.

Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC, online here to get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

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