Scammers Getting More Brazen
We have previously cautioned you not to be duped by Internet and mail scams dreamed up by some pretty enterprising thieves. Most of those revolve around the Internet and e-mails, trying to steal your identity or have you pay tax liabilities that don’t exist.
The latest schemes revolve around phone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS agents who demand immediate payment for fabricated tax liabilities. Don’t get caught up in these scams. Always remember, the first contact you will receive from the IRS is letter, never a phone call or e-mail.
Here are some guidelines to follow to avoid becoming a victim:
1. First and foremost, always remember, the first contact you will receive from the IRS will be by U.S. mail. If you receive e-mail or a phone call claiming to be from the IRS, consider it a scam.
a. E-mails – Do not respond or click through to any embedded links. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
b. Phone calls – If someone calls claiming to be an IRS agent, ask for their name, badge number, and phone number. Tell them your representative will call them back. Then call this office.
2. Never provide financial information over the phone via the Internet, or by e-mail unless you are absolutely sure with whom you are dealing. That includes:
• Social Security Number – Always resist giving your Social Security number to anyone. The more firms or individuals who have it, the greater the chance it can be stolen.
• Birth Date – Your birth date is frequently used as a cross check with your Social Security Number. A combination of birth date and Social Security number can open many doors for ID thieves. Is your birth date posted on social media? Maybe it should not be! That goes for your children, as well.
• Bank Account and Bank Routing Numbers – This along with your name and address will allow thieves to tap your bank accounts. To counter this threat, many banks now provide automated e-mails alerting you to account withdrawals and deposits.
• Credit/Debit card numbers – Be especially cautious with these numbers, since they provide thieves with easy access to your accounts.
There are individuals whose sole intent is to steal your identity and sell it to others. Limit your exposure by minimizing the number of charge and credit card accounts you have. The more who have your information, the greater the chances of it being stolen. Don’t think all the big firms are safe; there have been several high-profile database breaches in the last year.
The IRS is not the only disguise scammers use. They pretend to be attorneys representing estates, lottery payouts, and other such subterfuge to draw you into their web.
I was the victim of a scam recently. I had just been out and spent quite a bit more money than usual. I received a voice mail on my cell phone and the first part of the message was cut off. I did get the phone number to call them back. I assumed it was the fraud department at my bank because they said that if I didn’t call back right away, they were going to put a hold on my card. I was trying to unpack the car, get dinner started, put away the groceries, and so I was distracted. I called the number back, didn’t hear the name of the bank, and they asked me to enter my bank card number so they could look up my account. I didn’t think and entered it. Then they asked for my zip code and the expiration date on my card, and I entered those also. The message I got next was that they could not locate my account, and they hung up on me. I was so frustrated that I tried calling again and went through the same thing. The second time, I heard them say my account at “Barclay Bank.” Now I don’t have an account at that bank. So I put the phone number in the google.com search page, and it came up. Someone was using that to get people’s information so they could access their bank cards. I called the number of the back of my bank card immediately and cancelled the card. The customer service representative I spoke to told me that I had given them all the information they needed to access my bank account! Thankfully, I thought to look it up online. Fortunately, there was information about that scam. Some scams are too new for information to be there. If this ever happens to you, I recommend you call the number on the back of your bank card first and they can put you in touch with their fraud department.
If you ever have questions related to suspect e-mails or phone calls, please give us a call before responding to them. Our number is 559.924.1225. You can also look the number up online as I did, or contact the IRS if they are claiming to be from there.