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April 2017 - Guarding Against Phishing and Phone Scams

Woman Speaking on the Phone Recently, various news outlets reported a new scam where a caller asks “Can you hear me?”, records you replying “Yes” then uses that recording later to fraudulently authorize purchases, subscriptions, etc. Despite these reports, there’s been no proof this scam exists. Many other scams do exist, however, and cost consumers millions annually.

Tax season is popular with scam artists targeting tax professionals, human resource personnel, payroll departments, and taxpayers to steal money and/or personal information. But anybody can be a victim any time of year.

Many people are too embarrassed to report they’ve been victimized; still the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network recorded more than three million consumer fraud reports for 2016, accounting for more than $744.5 million in lost funds.

The FTC says imposter scams now outnumber identity thefts when it comes to consumer fraud. Imposters use scare tactics or hardship stories to extort money or personal information. Two of their favorite methods are phishing scams and phone scams.

Phishing scams use fake emails or websites designed to look legitimate. To identify the fakes:

  • check for misspellings or discrepancies in email and web addresses;
  • hover over links to see hidden web addresses.

Phone scam imposters use a variety of ruses to get you to part with your money or information: You’ve won the lottery ... You owe back taxes ... You missed jury duty ... You have a serious virus on your computer ... Your grandchild has been kidnapped/jailed.

To avoid falling victim, keep the following in mind:

  • The IRS won’t contact you by phone; they’ll send a letter. If you receive a letter, don’t use the phone number, return address or web address given to contact the agency. Find the number for your local IRS office through an independent source.
  • Don’t use gift cards for payments. They’re virtually untraceable.
  • Technical support representatives won’t know you have a computer problem unless you report one. Never give a stranger remote access to your computer.
  • Before helping a grandchild in trouble, call his or her parents. Chances are he or she is safe at home.

Above all, keep your guard up!

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