This information may not be new to many readers. We are all being constantly bombarded with phishing emails, fraudulent phone calls, and junk mail from irreputable "businesses." I think it is appropriate to share such experiences to promote our increasing awareness to these threats. Listed here are some of these threats that we are aware of. We can all serve a great public purpose by reporting these types of threats.
Phony Call from IRS (or State Tax Representative)
You answer a call or get a voice mail from someone identifying themself as being with IRS with a message that you owe taxes and need to call them at a number they leave.
IRS does not
call taxpayers by phone to discuss their taxes. If IRS has a problem with your account, they will only notify you by US mail at your last known address on file with them.
If you should want to report such activity, you can go to a special IRS website to enter the details. The address is https://www.irs.gov/uac/report-phishing.
These calls are just rampant.
New IRS Scam related to EFTPS Payments (this is the report from IRS)
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today warned people to beware of a new scam linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where fraudsters call to demand an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. This scam is being reported across the country, so taxpayers should be alert to the details.
In the latest twist, the scammer claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters purportedly sent to the taxpayer in the mail but returned as undeliverable. The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card. The scammer also tells the victim that the card is linked to the EFTPS system when, in fact, it is entirely controlled by the scammer. The victim is also warned not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made.
“This is a new twist to an old scam,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”
EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Since EFTPS is an automated system, taxpayers won’t receive a call from the IRS. In addition, taxpayers have several options for paying a real tax bill and are not required to use a specific one.
Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:
The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
• Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
• Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
• Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
• Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:
• View your tax account information online at IRS.gov to see the actual amount you owe. You can then also review your payment options.
• Call the number on the billing notice, or
• Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.
The IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.
Phony Call from "Microsoft" or "Technical Support"
I have received calls on my landline at home and also on my cellphone from individuals claiming to be technical support with Microsoft who want to help me with my computer. I do not have personal experience or knowledge about what would happen if you accept a call like this, but presumably they will ask to take control of your computer or get information from you that will enable them to hack your computer.
I have been able to contact Microsoft by phone before, but it was very difficult. Just try and you will see. You just should not answer a call like this unless you have talked to them first and are expecting a return call.
Other Computer Scams - The Scary Page that Won't Shut Down
This one is new to me and I do have personal experience. You know, sometimes you do a Google search and just wind up finding something that you wish you hadn't. I recently did a Google search and thought I had found some useful information. When I tried to print the page, a new window popped up and there was a loud recorded message which said something like this:
"This is a message from Microsoft...your computer has been infected with the (forgot the word) Virus. Call the number on your screen immediately to have the virus removed...if you shut down this page before the virus is removed we will have to erase your computer to prevent damage to our network."
That will be enough to get your heart racing. Then you try to shut the page down to prevent anyone else in the office from hearing this repeated message and the page won't shut down. Then you start sweating.
Then you look at the address bar at the top of the page and you see that this is not a Microsoft site reference. And you ask yourself, how in the Harry Potter did my computer notify Microsoft that I had a virus?
Finally, you start the task manager and shut the page down. Suddenly things are normal again, but then you have to take time to check your antivirus software to see that it is working and you have to scan your computer to make sure you don't have a problem.
The bottom line is this. You can't always trust a site that may appear to be innocuous at first glance. There may be dangers lurking.
Phone Call from the Sheriff's Office (Jury Duty Scam)
This one has made it's way around the area lately and we also have a personal experience with this. You receive a phone call from someone who identifies themself as a Deputy. They say they have a warrant for your arrest for failure to appear for jury duty. The person says that you need to pay a fine to avoid being arrested immediately. The caller will reference a judge's name that you may be familiar with from local newspaper articles.
This scam involves how they want you to pay the fee. They will ask you to buy a prepaid card at WalMart or the drug store. They will try to keep you on the line as long as possible. They will give you a cell number to call when you are ready to provide the number off the prepaid card. The number will have a recorded voice message to answer as the Sheriff's Office and it will ask you to leave your number. They will return your call and try to get you to give them the card information.
The local authorities will be aware of this scam and probably are working a case on this already.
Another Phone Scam
The caller may call you by name, but not necessarily. They ask, "Can you hear me OK?" or "Is this (your name)?" The caller is trying to get you to say "Yes." What I understand is that they record the call and use the recording as an excuse to add charges to the telephone bill for services you didn't ask for. I believe this scam originated after the break-up of AT&T when long distance service was opened up to a host of new players. This scam was used to change your long distance carrier.
The best way to avoid this is to remember not to say "Yes." Instead, say "Who's calling?" at least until you know who you are talking to.
Nigerian former Government Official or Foreign Lottery Winner
This scam has been around in various forms for at least a decade. An email notifies you that there is money available from some weird source like confiscated government funds and the sender needs your assistance to get the money into American accounts. Most everyone has heard of this and knows to avoid this, but the form of the scam has evolved to trap more victims. You just have to know this will end bad.
Letter Regarding Your Corporate Registration
Junk mail is quite often disguised as being sent by official government offices when the originator is really a shady business operation. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has a warning posted to its site about this type of scam. The mail appears to be from the government and has some sort of fee to be paid. The graphics on the envelope are really what sells this scam. It does appear to be somewhat official.
Problem with your Credit Account - How You Can Help Report Scams
I get emails fairly regularly telling me there is some problem with my account information on my USAA account. If I had a USAA account, this one might have gotten more attention from me.
Many banks and internet service providers are eager to stop such scams and they need our help. A very common way to help fight this type of crime is to forward suspicious emails to your internet service provider or to the institution that is being ghosted. They are especially interested in fighting this activity if their logos or trademark images are being used to perpetrate the crime. Most have an easy email address you can use to report these activities. AOL asks that you forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have also used this abuse address at banks and other institutions successfully. Just be sure not to enable or click on any links in the message before you forward it.
New Email Scam Directed at Office 365 Users
Just received today, July 14, 2017, an email purporting to be from Microsoft Office 365 notifying me that I have an important document that has been sent to me. The return address includes the domain name important-document.com. This is obviously a scam. I was able to find the originator of this message by looking up the domain name on Godaddy.com and actually found information on the originator of the message as someone in Panama City, Panama. Godaddy has one of the email@example.com reporting mechanisms. This has also been reported to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope somebody can shut this down.