Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beware The IRS and Other Scams

I was at work one day when my Supervisor got a phone call. In this phone call he was told that he owed the IRS a large sum of money. They were very convincing. This scared my Supervisor who was already in a financial bind. In a series of calls the scammer started to make some mistakes. For one, the scammer did not know that his victim worked on a Federal Installation. Had he known that the feds would just swoop down on the victim and take him away if he was really in that serious of trouble on a federal level. I’ve seen it happen before and there is truly no place to go. When I heard this story after the fact I just said to my Supervisor, “The IRS does not do business on the phone. Everything is done by mail and in writing.” I got a similar call once and I got hung up on when I informed the scammer that I knew this fact and asked, “Why would the IRS have my phone number but not my social security number like you have requested?”
IRS scams are increasing and according to the latest statistics; over $26 million was lost last year to IRS telephone scams. Usually, these scams come from India and they begin with a phone call from an unknown number telling you that you owe the IRS money and that you must pay immediately.
The callers will often talk with an American accent and will actually identify themselves as IRS agents. For example, they may call and tell you their name is Special Agent Wayne Marshal, badge number 554398. Obviously, this introduction would grab your attention and you would listen very carefully.
Next, the caller may ask you to confirm your name, phone number, or address. In other words, they are simply trying to get you to give them more information that they can use against you. In past instances, victims have asked the caller to provide them with the social security number of the person who owes the taxes but the callers are smart enough to say they cannot share that information.
After the caller has verified you are the person they want to speak with they will start telling you that you owe back taxes and they usually refer to a date. For instance, they may say you owe back taxes for the filing year 2012. They will do this because let’s be honest, who can remember the details of their tax filing in 2012.
Next, the IRS scam will typically quote the tax code such as saying section 101(H.) Unless you are somewhat familiar with tax code you probably wouldn’t know if that was a legitimate code.
Once they are done explaining why you owe the IRS money they will say you must make a payment right away to avoid going to jail or having all your bank accounts frozen.
Sometimes, they’ll even threaten to seize all your assets including your house if you don’t pay right away. If you do fall for the IRS scam and agree to make a payment the caller will usually tell you to send the money using Western Union or some other way that isn’t traceable.
It’s very hard for law enforcement to catch these criminals since they are usually working overseas and it’s difficult to follow the money trail.
The bottom line is, if you get a call like this, please don’t fall for it because you will likely never get your money back. If you ever get a call from the “IRS” remember that they always contact you through mail.
If you actually owe back taxes they will send you multiple notices including sending you certified mail, which requires a signature for delivery. Second, the IRS would never require you to make a payment in a specific form such as Western Union or an ITunes gift card.
Also, the IRS would never threaten to send the police to your house to arrest you. If they are pursuing charges against you for back taxes it’s a long process and it goes through the court system.
For those who have ever received such calls you may be wondering how the IRS scam targeted you in the first place. There is no doubt that in this day and age of computer hacking and other forms of identity theft, criminals could get our information in many different ways.
Sadly, one group of scammers was allegedly finding their victims by looking through obituaries. As we know, these share a lot of information including family member’s names and where they may live.
If you ever do receive a strange call from a suspicious number just remember the U.S. government typically wants a check made out to the US Treasury and the last thing they would ever ask for is an ITunes gift card.
Here are some tips for avoiding scams.
Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.
Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
I wish I was more trusting but I’m not. The scriptures say “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Sometimes I need to see some fruits before I let go of a little trust. President Ronald Reagan used to say “Trust but verify.” Be careful out there.

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