Common Phone Scams

IRS Imposter Scams

 

This scam starts when someone contacts you pretending to work for the IRS. The scammer will claim you owe additional taxes to the IRS, demand you pay immediately, often with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, and threaten to have you arrested if you don’t follow their instructions.

 

The IRS doesn’t call to demand immediate action or payment, nor will they involve law enforcement on their first contact with you. Generally, you will be contacted by mail first.

 

If you still question a call or letter from the IRS, there are couple of ways for you to establish its legitimacy. For scam callers, ask the caller to provide their name, badge number and callback number. Then, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. You can also verify the number on a letter, form, or notice through the IRS website.

 

Grandparent” Scams

 

”Grandparent” scams often target the elderly. In this case, scammers that often pose as police officers of another state or a foreign country inform you that your grandchild somehow wound up in prison while traveling and make you an offer to release your loved one for a price.

 

Some particularly brazen scammers may even pose as your grandchild over the phone. Scammers may even rattle off information about your grandchild that you don’t think is readily available like your grandchild’s name, age, and where he or she lives. This information can be bought or found through social media sites.

 

In the case of a grandparent scam, it is best to verify the location of your loved ones prior to sending any money. Call your children to see if their kids are traveling or call your grandchild directly. Answers from those conversations should tell you if you need to be concerned.

 

Utility Companies

 

Scammers may call you posing as your utility company, claim you fell behind on your monthly payments, and demand you pay immediately over the phone or risk having your utilities shut off.

 

This is not how legitimate utility companies operate. While your utility company may call you regarding an overdue bill or loss of service notification, they will not demand immediate payment over the phone.

 

If you do receive a call from a utility company, your best course of action is to hang up and call your utility company directly. They can help you verify the legitimacy of the call you received.

 

Contact information for a number of utility companies can be found on the PUC’s website.

 

Jury Duty and Warrant Scams

 

Whether it’s the FBI, sheriff, or local police department, warrant and jury duty scams are designed to make victims panic and give up their personal information over the phone. The scammers will often state you’ve missed jury duty or committed a crime and inform you of a fine you need to pay to stay out of jail in an attempt to convince you to pay on the phone with a credit card.

 

Demanding specific form of payment should always be a red flag. In this case, scammers care about your form of payment because they want your credit card information; law enforcement doesn’t. Legitimate law enforcement officers will not call and demand you immediately pay a fine over the phone. They are much more likely to request you go to a station to pay any fine.

 

Vacation, Lottery and Prize Scams

 

A caller notifies you that you won a prize. Often, it’s a cruise or a vacation to an exotic location or popular travel spot. Then they mention that all you need to do to claim your prize, or receive an additional prize like a rewards card, is pay a small fee with your credit card. This is a scam to gain access to your credit card information.

 

This is a case of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” particularly if you didn’t sign up for this prize in the first place. Always be cautious of callers who offer big prizes but require some sort of payment from you prior to receiving the prize.

 

Tech Support Scams

 

The phone rings and the caller informs you he or she is calling from Microsoft or another tech company. The caller then states something like “your computer has a virus,” and attempts to convince you to navigate to a website and grant him or her access to your computer. This should be a red flag.

 

Companies like Microsoft aren’t monitoring customer computers and offering to help with viruses. Only scammers will ask you to grant them access to your computer. If you do, they can access your personal information, install malware and may even charge you a fee for their “service.”