Scammers love to use current events to try and trick people out of money. Since tax season is starting, you can expect that IRS scams will also be reappearing. There are several common tactics that IRS scammers use, but the IRS does NOT do. Knowing these red flags can help keep your money and personal information safe.
The IRS does NOT:
• Initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information. Always be wary of someone requesting sensitive information through these channels.
• Call to demand immediate payment with a specific method. We’ve mentioned before that scammers like to have you send money with gift cards and wire transfers. Anyone insisting on these forms of payment should automatically raise a red flag.
• Demand you pay taxes without option to question or appeal the amount. Scammers frequently use pressure tactics, like insisting you pay immediately and without question.
• Threaten to bring in local police, immigration, or other law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment. This is a scare tactic scammers use in hopes that you don’t question their claims and pay up quick.
• Revoke driver’s licenses, business licenses, or immigration status. This is another scare tactic used to stress and trick you into paying before you have time to think critically.
What the IRS DOES do:
• Mail the first bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
• Instructs payments be made to the “United States Treasury”.
• Provide two forms of official credentials for in-person visits.
• Notify you by mail if your tax debt has been sent to a private collection agency. The collection agency will also send you a contact letter with information on how to resolve the debt.
• Notify you by mail before attempting to make contact over the phone regarding an audit.
Robocalls are phone calls that play a recorded message when you answer. They can be easy to identify when they use an automated, robot-like voice, but some use a recording of a real person timed with breaks in the audio to make it sound like you’re talking to a real person.
There are some legal reasons for robocalls, but if you are getting a lot of these calls trying to sell you something, they are likely illegal or even a scam. Even from real companies, robocalls trying to sell you something are illegal unless they have your express written permission to contact you with robocalls. However, if someone is already willing to break the law to illegally contact you, it’s likely to also be a scam.
If you get an illegal robocall, just hang up. Do not press any numbers, even if the recording claims that you can do so to stop the calls. You can help fight robocalls by reporting those you receive to the Federal Trade Commission at DoNotCall.gov. The FTC will want to know your phone number, the number that called you (even if you think it’s fake), and any phone numbers the robocall may have told you to call back. They will also want the exact date and time of the call if you know it.
Spoofing is a technique where scammers “spoof” or falsify their identifying information to make you think it is coming from a trusted source. More advanced scammers can even make their caller ID show up on your phone as a known contact, like a family member. Other common techniques involve sending emails with official-looking logos for valid businesses, but the user’s email address will be from a personal account (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org) instead of from an official business account for the organization they claim to represent.
Scammers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to steal money or trick you out of sensitive information. They frequently utilize technology both to contact you and to hide their lies, making it even more difficult for those who aren’t as technologically savvy to spot the deception. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some red flags to help you spot possible scams and some general tips to avoid them.
You have to make a decision immediately. Scammers will try to use stress and emotion against you, insisting that the issue is time sensitive and you have to make a choice NOW. Common examples include claiming that a family member has been injured or arrested, or that you will be arrested, unless you pay them immediately.
They ask for sensitive information in electronic communications. Financial institutions will never ask for sensitive information, like your Social Security Number, via email or text message. If you receive an unsolicited communication asking for sensitive, personal information, be wary.
Insisting on non-secure payment methods. Scammers regularly insist on non-secure payment methods which are difficult to track. Probably the most famous is via wire transfer, like Western Union, but they also use more unusual methods such as gift cards. Some may also ask you to cash a check for a large sum of money and keep a cut for yourself, rather than them paying you directly.
The deal seems too good to be true. This is common for online shopping or job hunting, especially on less regulated sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You see a listing for an item priced well under market value, or a job that pays extremely well for seemingly little effort. Likely when you contact the poster, you will be asked to provide money or personal information up front in order to move forward.
They use poor grammar and have spelling errors. Errors like this can be blatant, like a plain looking email that looks like the text was written using a bad translation service. They can also be more subtle, such as using graphics and logos that appear professional, but the company name is slightly misspelled. So, if you notice spelling issues or that the sentence structure just seems weird, it could be a scam.
The contact details don’t match up. Scammers often use emails and messaging that look legitimate, but might forget to fake their email address. If you get an official looking email from an email address that seems odd or out of place, it could be a scam. An example would be an email that appears to be from your bank, asking for you to verify your account information, but the sender’s email address is from a generic email service, like Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail.
They change the terms after you’ve expressed interest. This is a common method in classifieds, whether you’re shopping around on Craigslist or hunting for a new job. It might be that you’re looking at a used car marketed as being in your city for a great price, but when you reach out, they say the car is actually in another state and will have to be transported. Or you find a job listing for an office assistant, but upon contacting the employer, they say the position is no longer available, but they are looking for a personal assistant to pick-up and deliver mail and for cash payments. This scenario often goes hand in hand with the “too good to be true” deals and are a good indicator that the listing is fraudulent.
They use generic or stolen pictures. Because they don’t actually have the item they are trying to “sell”, scammers frequently use generic photos easily found online or stolen for other websites. Are they selling a used car, but posted a picture that looks straight out of a car commercial? Are they re-selling an item like clothing or collectibles, but only use the original product photos from the brand’s website and marketing? Those can be good indicators that the listing is a scam.
Don’t rush. Even though scammers frequently use pressure and emotional manipulation to try and get you to make a decision, it is important to take time to think things through. Any deals or offers that are legitimate should still be valid the next day.
Research it. If anything feels suspicious or too good to be true, look into it. Use your own resources to verify information. Scammers may try to have you call a number or visit a website they have set up, so use a third-party option, like 411 or an online search, to confirm the validity of the claims.
Remember that it’s okay to say no. If you aren’t sure if you’ve gotten a legitimate request, you can always err on the side of caution and say no. You’re not obligated to share your personal information or follow the person’s instructions. Saying no allows you to take the time to think through the details of the situation and research it on your own to be sure it’s safe.
Report it. Many law enforcement agencies take fraud and scam reports and have officers available to answer non-emergency questions over the phone or in person. Call your local law enforcement non-emergency phone number for more information about options available to you locally.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has a dedicated website for learning about and reporting fraud and scams. They use information submitted in reports to help stop scammers and keep people informed of current scams making the rounds. To report a scam to the FTC, visit FTC.gov/complaint or call 1-877-382-4357. You can also sign up to receive alerts about new scams by visiting https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.
Practice your scam spotting skills. The Australian organization Scamwatch provides examples of scam texts, emails, and websites with explanations about why each example is suspicious and where to spot indicators of a scam. To test your knowledge, and maybe learn a few extra tips, visit their site here.
If you pick up your phone from an unknown number often, chances are, you have been contacted by some type of scam or sales call. It’s easy to hang up when it’s a pre-recorded message, but what do you do when the person on the other line is claiming to be calling from the IRS, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or Medicare? What if they are calling from a well-known charity, such as Make-a-Wish? Your first instinct won’t be to hang up right away, so you might stay on the line to hear what they have to say. It may be harmless to do so, but what do you do when they say that you have a payment due, or asks for your Social Security number? You might feel pressured to give out your information, but always remember that scammers try to get your money in the quickest way possible. No one from the government, a charity organization, or even a tech support company should be calling you first and asking for your payment or any other personal information. In addition, if a caller says that he or she is simply calling to confirm your name and address – hang up immediately. These types of calls can come from a live phone operator or a recorded message to confirm your personal information.
Make sure to visit The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog page to read about the recent scam alerts. The following are a few tips from the FTC blog to keep in mind when you receive unknown phone calls.
The federal government would contact you by US Mail, not by phone or email first.
Federal agencies would not ask or demand your personal information over the phone.
Scammers may threaten you to give up a payment information to pressure you.
Do not trust a caller who asks for your bank account information or asks to wire money over the phone.
Free prize or winner? It’s a scam.
Hang up immediately if someone is calling to “just to confirm” personal information. Just because they recite your name and address, doesn’t mean that they are trustworthy.
Not all scams are preformed by people in the shadows, there are some people that will lie to your face in order to profit from your misfortune. This is what is happening to many of our countries veterans. Senior living facilities with incredibly high rents are luring in our nations veterans by promising to get them much needed VA benefits.
In one instance a WWII Veteran was told by a facility that he must move in in order to qualify for assistance. The manager of the facility paired him with a VA claim-filling “advocacy group” and he was guaranteed the acquisition of benefits. In this case the veterans income was far too high to qualify for benefits but not high enough to keep up with the cost of living in the facility. After a year and no awarded benefits he was broke and evicted from the facility.
To prevent this from happening to you, your friend or someone in your family keep an eye out for red flags. If a facility promises that you or your loved one WILL receive benefits use caution. No facility can promise this as each VA program is different. Generally these are the things they are looking for in order for you to qualify for benefits:
Income guidelines. Often times other government benefits end up pushing you over the income limit.
You must have served within certain years or be a certain age.
For some programs, you must prove that the Veteran needs daily assistance with tasks such as bathing and dressing.
Also be on the look out for facilities that claim any of the following regarding benefits.
Moving into a facility is required to qualify – This is not true a veteran can live with a family member or on their own and still qualify for benefits.
Guaranteed Benefits upon move in. – This is also not true. There is no guarantee of benefits. You must qualify based on the criteria set forth by your specified VA program.
VA “Advocacy Group” will fill out your benefit request for a small fee- THIS IS ILLIGAL. No fee can be collected to complete and submit claims on behalf of a veteran.
These scammers are targeting Bank owned mobilehome repos and vacant homes in your mobilehome community and are attempting to “rent” these homes to people in your area.
Here is how it is working. The scammer’s drive around your community and identify any vacant homes. They then place a “For Rent” yard sign not far from the community with a telephone number. When the potential resident contacts the scammers they give the residents the address and tell them to go take a look and are instructed that if they like it to call the scammers back. At which time they will arrange to “sign contracts” and collect the security deposit. They then meet the potential “renters” at an offsite location and collect the deposit. The “renter” is then told they can move in whenever and that the key will be delivered to them. Any attempt to contact the scammers after this point results in a text message letting the “renter” know they are stuck somewhere and that the key will be mailed. This of course never happens.
This scam has occurred in mobilehome communities in Chino, Ontario and Riverside. Please make sure your managers are aware of this scam and have them keep an eye out for two men who have used the names Samuel Fuentes (619)399-8477 and Jesse/Jesus Mendoza (760) 406-1617. They are driving either a 2010 blue Saturn SUV or Black Bronco. Please notify the Police immediately if you see these cars or any other suspicious activity in your park.
Scam artists often target homeowners and many times use well known businesses as a cover to gain your trust. The most recent scam that has been reported to us is one that involves a caller identifying themselves as an employee of the utility company Edison. They state that they have not received payment from you and that they will be sending someone out in the next three days to shut off your electricity. They then ask for your personal information.
DO NOT EVER PROVIDE ANYONE WITH BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION, YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER OR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE WITHOUT VERIFYING WHO THEY ARE!
A resident at a park in Santa Ana was contacted by one of these scammers and took the proper steps by
Providing the caller NO personal information
Contacting the Park Manager to inform them of the Scam
Contacting the local police department (using the non-emergency number) to inform them of the scam attempt.