Have you, or someone you know, received a call from the IRS or the Social Security Administration (SSA) asking for money? Very likely those calls were made by crooks. They usually attempt to persuade people to transfer money to them or give out personal information.
Imposters often use robocalls to reach you, then launch into a story aimed at tricking you into giving them your money, your Social Security Number (SSN), or both. They may say your SSN has been suspended and you need to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Or, they may say your SSN has been involved in a crime and your bank account is about to be seized or frozen, but you can protect your money if you put it on a gift card and give them the code. Never do that – your money will disappear.
The best way to avoid falling victim of those kinds of scams is to stay informed. Here are some practical tips to help you stay vigilant:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Consider how you pay – Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to wire money, send reloadable cards or gift cards.
- 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.
- 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. Regardless of how they contact you, don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request.
- Do online searches – Type a company or product name into a search engine and add words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” You should also search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.”
- 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.
- Report a scam – If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.
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This article has been adapted from “10 things you can do to avoid fraud”: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud