Earlier this year, we wrote about a phone call scam where criminals pretend to be “your IT services company.” Then they say they need your payment information to renew your antivirussoftware. It’s unfortunate that we continue to talk about these, however, once cyber criminals are exposed they look for new ways to fool you. Here are some new tricks to be on the look out for and how to avoid being taken advantage of.
Receiving Phone Calls from the “Supposed” IRS
Criminals love to play on people’s vulnerabilities. If anyone receives a phone call from the IRS, they are more likely to take it seriously out of fear. Callers are reporting being threatened to pay a certain amount of money to avoid lawsuits. Some criminals even threaten to come to raid their home within the next 30 minutes. These scammers can make a lot of money. Last year, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, scammers made $2 million from over 1,500 victims.
Remember This: The IRS will NOT contact you via the telephone. If the IRS needs to notify you of anything, they will send you something via United States Postal Service.
Threatening Calls to Cut Off Utilities
Continuing to play off people’s fear, criminals are calling people claiming to be their energy and utilities company. They then say that they owe money. In order to avoid disruption of service, they need to collect payments over the phone.
Remember This: Never give payment over the phone unless you called the utility company yourself. Tell them you will make a payment online or in person.
Don’t Say “Yes” to Any Unknown Callers
We all receive calls from strange numbers, some even look very similar to our own phone number (see below) and then we are asked a question:
- Are you there?
- Are you the homeowner?
- Is this [First Name, Last Name]?
- Are you the head of the household?
These criminals are simply hoping you will answer “Yes.” If they have already gotten ahold of your credit cards or bank accounts, they can now use your voice recording to purchase things over the phone. When you dispute the charges, they can counter that they have your consent via voice recording.
Remember This: If you don’t recognize a phone number calling you, let them leave a message and you can call back. If you feel like you must answer the phone, don’t answer questions right away with a “yes.” Report these scammers to the Better Business Bureau’s site, bbb.org/scamtracker, to help warn others.
Even If It Looks Like a Familiar Number, It May Not Be
Scammers have gotten extremely clever with technology. Have you received a phone call from an unknown caller, but the phone number looked familiar, maybe your same area code and first three digits? This is called “Caller ID Spoofing,” or the practice of a caller changing the originating phone number. It used to be very complicated to do this. With Voice over IP (VoIP) and other open source software, it’s relatively easy and cheap to spoof calls. Caller ID Spoofing is illegal in the United States if it is done “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value” according to the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009.
Remember This: If you don’t recognize a number or if it isn’t stored in your contacts, your safest bet is to let them leave a message.
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