Monday, March 20, 2017

Be Aware of these Scams!

Over the past several years, I have used this column numerous times as a community resource to talk about the latest scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of a scam. Scams are still out there, so I am providing some general information and ways to help you, so you don’t fall victim to scams. And, scammers are getting slicker and more daring in ways that can easily catch you off guard- making you easy prey for newer scams – one of the newer scams is threatening to withhold funds from your Social Security Benefit Payment via an authentic looking letter from US Department of the Treasury. Scam artists are sophisticated and often prey on trusting victims – their single purpose is to make money. They want anybody’s money, including your money! Included with this week’s article is a copy of a scam letter that is circulating; it is authentic looking at first glance and an example of how scammers go to great lengths to make the situation seem legitimate. This letter was personalized with name and address, which has been blacked out. Be very careful and do not give out information. And, tax time is also scam artist time. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, also. The IRS con game peaks during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so. Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone robo-calls or via phishing email. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money. Some schemes may even say you are entitled to a huge refund. They all add up to trouble. Scammers often alter the caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during filing season. The IRS Commissioner says, “Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money. We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you’re not hearing from us.” Here are five things scammers often do, but the IRS will never do: • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the IRS call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a pre-paid debit card. • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do: If you do not owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do: • Do not give out information. Hang up immediately. • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484. • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on webpage and please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes. If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax: • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you. • Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. For more information about your Taxpayer Bill of Rights, visit Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. One out of ten adults have been victimized by identify theft. Presenting them self as a representative from IRS or US Treasury is not the only way a scammer can victimize you. Garbage pickers routinely set up phony accounts in your name. They get all the information they need from your trash. Be sure to shred or burn solicitations or pre-approved applications from credit card companies. Or, the scam begins with a phone call. NEVER give out personal information. Banks, credit card companies, mortgage companies have the information they need. They will never call to ask your social security number or other personal information. Another version of identity theft is hackers call you and say your email has been hacked. They lead you to believe they are calling from a legitimate company and are calling to help resolve your problem. Then the hackers steal your private files and identity. They often say if you send us a pre-paid Visa cash card for $500 they can completely take care of things. Another scam that has been in the news lately is an urgent call from a “grand child” who has been in an accident or some other type of trouble and need their grandparent to wire money to get them out of trouble. Beware – this type of scam has been successful and takes advantage of an escalation of emotions. This information is being provided to help stop the number of innocent people who fall victim to scammers – I hope it makes you pause and not become the next victim. Thousands of individuals already have.

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