Tagscam

Telephone scams

Telephone scams are common and unexpected. They are often successful because they make claims that scare us into action. We have a problem with our computer. The IRS needs to speak to us about an urgent matter. There is some other impending doom that will befall you if you don’t act now.

That’s also how to spot a scam. The urgency. The life or death tone of the message, and it is often a message, not a real person on the line.

Just today, I received a call from a DC phone number. I saw 202-241-7215 was calling me, so I picked up the phone and said hello. Immediately, I heard the recording. It said the following.

“This is Julie Smith from the Internal Revenue Service. You need to call us back before we take action against you. Call us back at this number.”

Immediately, alarm bells went off in my head.

  1. I had received nothing in the mail and no prior communication from the IRS about anything.
  2. This was a recording, not a live person. This seemed really suspicious.
  3. There was no mention of a case number or reference number to note when I call back.

I typed the number into Google and the results were what I expected.

Google results for IRS scammer phone number

I read the first result and it notes no answer or someone with a middle eastern accent.

Looking further down the page, I see a link for the FTC about Fake IRS collectors calling. Bingo! They’ve been at this for a while.

if you receive a call that sounds suspicious, it probably is. Remember, if the IRS is calling you they will know the following information about you:

  • Your name
  • Your address

Do not give this information away. The scammer will often ask you to verify it. But instead, tell them if they’re the IRS, they will already have this information and they need to verify it with you. At this point they will often hang up, or continue to try to talk you into giving up your information.

The FTC lists some good tips too.

  • don’t provide any account or other personal information. Hang up the phone.
  • never wire money to a person or company you don’t know. Once you wire money, you can’t get it back.

  • if you owe – or think you owe – federal taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions. You also can visit the IRS website at irs.gov.

  • if you’ve already paid your taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
    forward emails from the IRS to phishing@irs.gov. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails.

  • file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. Include “IRS Telephone Scam” in your complaint.

The best defense against scams is your own common sense. If something sounds suspicious, it probably is. If you ever have a question about a call, type the number into Google and read the results.

Before you ever send anyone money, lookup the agency’s phone number and call them directly. They will be able to tell you if the call was legit or not.

How to spot a scam

With Skype allowing calls to outside lines, scammers can call anyone they want from anywhere they want for pennies and attempt to scam people out of their hard-earned money. Everyone wants to win big money and prizes but there are certain things to look for when you think you’re being scammed.

What contest did you win?

The caller will say you’ve won a contest. What contest exactly? That’s where the deception begins.

The caller will give a vague answer such as “it was a drawing in a big retailer like Best Buy or Kmart” or something like “it was a sweepstakes in your area.” The answer is always very vague.

If you had won something, the caller would identify the contest and who was hosting it. For example, Tigerdirect holds giveaways for computer equipment. Upon winning, someone from Tigerdirect would call, identify themselves and say what you had won.

Are you eligible?

The caller will try to talk to anyone who will pickup the phone. If the caller at any point tells you you’ve not eligible to win a prize due to location, age or any other reason, this is a scam.

If you had won, the caller would have already checked your eligibility. The company holding a giveaway would not waste time calling someone to give them a prize they could not win. If you’re not eligible to win, the caller would not ask for another person in the house who did meet the requirement. For example, if you had to be 25 or older to win, the caller would not speak to someone under 25 because they are ineligible to win.

Pick your prize from this great list!

If you won a prize, the caller would already know what prize you won and be calling to ask you to claim it. The caller would never give you a list of prizes. For instance, if the caller says you’ve won either:

  • A New Car
  • $25,000 Cash
  • 32″ LCD TV
  • A Cruise
    You are being scammed.

If you had won, the caller would be notifying you of the exact prize you won and making arrangements to verify your identity, and information you submitted when entering the contest. You will never be offered a choice of prizes.

Please go here to claim your prize.

If you caller is asking you to go to a hotel to claim your prize, you are being scammed.
If the caller says anything about a presentation or 60 or more minutes, you are being scammed.
If the caller cannot give details such as parking arrangements or specific directions to the venue they want you to go to, you are being scammed.

If you had actually won a contest, the prize would come to you. You will not need to meet them at a hotel in a city far away from where their caller ID claims they are. If on the off-chance you do need to meet them somewhere, it would be an official office, not a hotel. If you did need to go there, they would offer you directions and details. If the caller can’t tell you how the parking is at the venue they’re asking you to go to, the caller is not there and you don’t know who or what is waiting there for you.

Use your head

The best way to avoid being scammed is to use your head. We all want to believe we’ve won thousands of dollars, new cars and fabulous vacations but if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

If you think you’re being scammed follow a couple of simple rules.

  • Do not give any personal information.
  • Ask detailed questions.
  • Ask for a number to call the person back, then try it.
  • Call the number you’re being called from after the call or from another phone.
  • Be smart, if you think you’re getting scammed, or have already given out information, collect as much as you can and contact your local law enforcement.
  • If it’s a company repeatedly calling you, contact the Better Business Bureau.
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