Article updated 11/14/18.
Scamming rubes is nothing new; it has been around as long as the unscrupulous among us began to figure out how to separate the gullible from their cash. Snake oil anyone? Step right up. Methods vary but the digital age has really opened up the floodgates for these charlatans. Forget the iconic “Nigerian prince and Middle East widow;” things have gotten more sophisticated. Here are a few online scams to watch out for.
Trump Bonus Checks, Freedom Checks, and the 501(k)
This one has been making the rounds for some time now. There are many variations but what it boils down to is that money is out there for the average American to claim (But hurry! There’s a deadline!) Yeah right, and every time that deadline expires it’s pushed forward.
Some of them claim that large corporations are just falling over in their eagerness to cut huge checks. Others actually seem to claim that President Trump actually signed legislation to hand out money like candy (But hurry! There’s a deadline!). These are called Trump Bonus Checks. They never specifically claim that the Donald had anything to do with it but the slippery bums plant the seed of reality by taking advantage of a little thing called greed.
The reality? These shysters are selling expensive stock-pick newsletters. Couldn’t cut it as legitimate brokers, I suppose.
Have You Seen Ads About the 501(k)?
Regarding one that I just saw this morning the hook read, “Trump’s New Law Could Mean Big Changes for Retirees.” Did Trump change something in his tax reduction? No! He simply did not reference or eliminate certain already existing tax loopholes. But these “advisors,” ahem, are clever with words. And targeting retirees online? Sad.
In reality they want to send you a book that tells you how to invest in their “secret plan,” of which they say, “Because government heavily restricts the advertising for this “account,” most people aren’t aware of just how great it is.”
Heavily restricted? But their have their ads plastered all over the internet? This is so odoriferous; it stinks to high heaven of chicanery.
The “Consumer Bonus” Hidden in Section 11042
Shhh, don’t tell anyone but this bonus has been “hidden”in the Trump tax reform bill. The online video tripe put out by the Oxford Club (now, doesn’t that name just radiate confidence?) claims the average citizen can get a bonus of cash of up to $3,700 for purchases. In their words, anything from a pair of shoes to a yacht. And the best part is that the IRS doesn’t even care if you save receipts. Yowsa!
But hold your horses. Does this pass the smell test, I ask? As Intuit Turbotax puts it, “This is bogus, a play on words, and nothing of substance. If you read the language of that section, that is indeed the section that limits the SALT deduction, a provision that was subject to much political debate. Before enactment of HR 1, you could fully deduct your paid state and local income taxes. This provision limits that amount for tax years after 2017 and before 2026 to $10,000.”
“So the claim is “legit” in the sense that if you are at the top marginal tax rate and you itemize your deductions and you paid $10,000 or more in state or local taxes, your tax bill will be $3,700 lower in 2018 than it would be without 26 USC 164 (which Section 11042 modifies).”
“However, it is entirely bogus because that section of the 2017 tax bill does not provide any new benefit at all, like the copy explicitly states (it is in fact limiting an existing benefit) and because that provision does not even apply to tax year 2017 anyway. If you were already benefiting from “this section” you will continue to benefit (albeit to a lesser extent). If you were not already benefiting, you will continue to not benefit.”
OK, that was a bit long-winded but it’s the gospel according to Turbotax and if anyone knows the code, it’s them. So what the heck is up with that illustrious organization the Oxford Club? Same old, same old bait and switch show. They want you to subscribe to The Oxford Communiqué. They are basically selling you their stock tips. But really, if they had to stitch together that whole bogus tale of the Shhhh, Hidden Consumer Bonus, do you really trust their tips?
Just Sign the Petition…
This one is usually has a political flavor. Sometimes it comes from a bona fide politician. Sometimes it comes from a third party, maybe a legitimate fundraiser, maybe not. In any event, here is the way it works. The email concerns an alarmist political issue.
“Dear fellow patriot, we desperately need your support. Please click to sign the petition which we will deliver to X,Y, or Z. Clicking will indeed take you to a petition for you to “sign.” How can typing your name hold water? Next you are taken to a page asking for a monetary contribution.
Why does it work? People that are politically aware are emotional about their side on most issues, whether it is for the Republicans or the Democrats. It is a classic emotion-play. But in the case of a third party solicitation, what percentage actually goes to the cause and how much to “operating expenses?” If you really want to contribute, go right to the party.
Charity and Relief Internet Scams
This is another one that is designed to tug on your heartstrings. Booooooing! You will usually be shown a sad photo of a child, people, etc. in a horrible situation. Next they go to work exaggerating the back story about these people. After the story, they then ask that you donate some money to this noble cause.
Unfortunately even the supposedly reliable charities don’t always make the grade. Several years ago the Red Cross got a slew of bad press for the incredible expenses they went through while doing some remodeling on their headquarters.
Rather than just handing over your cash on the spot, ask to see in writing the way and what percentage of funds actually get distributed. If they are legit they will be glad to oblige. If they hesitate or hem ‘n haw, give them the boot.
Search for Your Name
This money-grabber comes cloaked in a number of come-ons. It might say “Scary what this site knows bout Americans. Enter any name,” “Have you Googled Yourself?,” or something similar. Clicking will take you to a page that allows you to enter a name, state, etc. It will yield some basic facts but then wants to charge your credit card to give you the real scoop. What they don’t tell you is that all this info is all in the public records.
All you are really paying for is for someone (actually something, an algorithm) to do the leg work for you. If you don’t mind paying for that, OK. But keep in mind that this is a sneaky come-on and as long as they have aggregated your data they can easily use it themselves or sell it to others as a basis for identity theft.
Bottom line? Don’t trust anyone; approach each situation as a business transaction. Do not open any email attachments that you do not trust. Keep your emotions in check. Sign up for the Kim Komando newsletter. She is always on top of new scams.
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