NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tax cons were the top reported scam of 2016, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Mary Van Essendelft was one of the countless Americans this year to fall victim to the popular scheme, CBS2’s Chris Martinez reported.

A con artist posing as an IRS agent called and 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 dollars.

“He says to me, ‘This is the IRS,” Van Essendelft said. “He said don’t tell anybody, don’t call anybody because your house is bugged.”

In other popular scams, criminals pose as debt collectors, say you’ve won a sweepstakes, or offer a job opportunity, Martinez reported. Online purchase scams are when victims buy items from a fake website.

“This can happen to anyone,” the Bureau’s Emma Fletcher 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 said.

That’s what happened to Linda Williams. A con artist called her claiming she’d won $50,000 but first had to wire them several up front fees.

“I guess I hoped that this was real,” Williams said.

The scam artists also 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, money card, green dot, those are big red flags,” Fletcher said.

And experts say if someone is demanding money or if the offer sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam, Martinez reported.


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