IRS phone scams and may other types of phone fraud, continue in many areas, so I wrote this post to remind you what to look out for, and how to avoid being a victim.
If the scammers pick your phone number, you’ll receive a call from someone claiming to be an investigator for the IRS.
These callers have called numbers in almost every state in the US and are very clever and persuasive. They target taxpayers, and also recent immigrants.
You are told that you owe money to the IRS, or that there is a large tax lien against you that may include criminal charges. They instruct you that this money must be paid immediately through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.
If you aren’t cooperative, the caller may become hostile and threaten you with arrest, deportation, or suspension of your driver’s license.
You might hear background noise on the call that sounds like it’s coming from a call site. Some of the callers use equipment which changes the number appearing on your caller ID, to the actual IRS toll-free number.
The caller may know the last four digits of your social security number. They might use very common names like John Smith or Tom Brown.
You may also receive a fake email before the call, that appears to come from the IRS.
Other Types of Bogus Phone Calls
• Power/Electric Company Calls
Someone will call claiming to be an employee of your Power/Electric company. They will state that a recent electric bill hasn’t been paid, and will threaten to shut off your power immediately unless this bill is paid. You will be told you have to make an immediate payment through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer.
• Foreign Lottery & Nigerian Lottery Scams
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says that consumers are scammed out of millions of dollars every year by solicitations for prizes, and foreign lotteries.
Many of the scammers are in Canada, and offer chances to win foreign lotteries from places like Europe and Australia. They offer chances to win big lump sum prize amounts, with much better odds than American lotteries.
What to Do About Bogus Phone Calls
The IRS states that they will never ask for credit card numbers over the phone, and they also don’t ever ask a taxpayer to use a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.
They also don’t threaten to have you deported, or arrested. If there is a tax problem, their first contact will usually be by mail.
In some cases, after the scammers or you hang up after receiveing a threatening call, you may get another call soon afterwards, from someone claiming to be from the police – those calls can also show a police department number on your caller ID. So that is a sure sign that both calls where a scam.
The IRS also says they don’t contact taxpayers by email or text messages, asking for personal and financial information. They don’t ask for PIN numbers or passwords.
The irs.gov website can give you more information, and has links to actually report scams. You can also call their regular number of 1-800-829-1040 if there any issues with your taxes.
• Power/Electric Company
Electric Utility companies will usually not ask for personal information over the telephone, unless you called them first.
They also don’t send emails threatening to close your account.
Don’t give personal information to anyone who calls you, including any kind of account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, or credit card numbers.
If you are suspicious about any call you receive, hang up, and then call your utility company back at the number given on your bill. If you call them first and they ask for information, it’s OK, but if anyone calls you first, don’t give any information.
If you get a suspicious call, my advice is to just hang up. If you want you can ask for their supervisor’s name, and then hang up. Then call your local police or law enforcement to report the incidents.
• Foreign Lottery and Other Scams
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) says that it’s illegal to play a foreign lottery, either over the phone, or by mail.
Most of the phone operations are phony – you won’t receive the promised lottery tickets.
If you give one of these callers your credit card number, you’re making a big mistake. They will probably make unauthorized charges and leave you with a big bill.
The odds of winning a foreign lottery are extremely slim – just like with American lotteries.
There are no secret companies, formulas, or systems that will give you any special access or a better chance of winning.
Some phone pitches may claim that a lottery sweepstakes comes from the IRS. It isn’t true.
More Phone Scam Peventions Tips
Be aware that many of these phone scammers are very clever and good at what they do. Some people have been cheated out of their life savings. Elderly people often become victims because they are lonely, and the scammers are very good at starting a friendly conversation.
They will lie and say they are from the same town you are, or that they work for a company you really trust.
Some signs of a scam are claims that you’ve won a prize, or a special promotion. If they say they just need to put the shipping charges on your credit card, and you give them the number, they may put hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges on your card.
In the United States telemarketers are required by law to tell you their name and that they’re making a sales call, before they give any pitch.
If they don’t do this, you should just hang up.
Don’t fall victim to high pressure tactics. You should ask to get written information before you decide to buy something.
If something is really “free”, you shouldn’t be asked to pay any shipping charges or fees.
Don’t ever send money by money transfers – you won’t be able to dispute fraudulent charges.
Don’t give anyone your credit card number over the phone.
Robocalls, or automated calls coming from machines, are usually illegal.
My advice is to not even answer the phone unless you see the number of someone you know on your caller ID.
Go to the ftc.gov website for more information, tips, or to file complaints against phone scammers.
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