Stop! It’s Scammer Time…and Tax Season

In a world that is becoming more and more impersonal and fast-paced, scammers continue to prevail by screwing people who are off their guard. With roughly 10 percent of the population being victims of internet and phone scams, we need to make sure we are always on the lookout.

According to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission, imposter scams have taken the second-place spot over identity theft for fraud complaints. “Debt collection” fraud continues to be the most popular with close to 860,000 out of the 3.05 million complaints in 2016. Despite the decreasing number of people falling for these con artists, close to $745 million was reported to have been paid out in 2016 alone.

If it smells fishy, it probably is…

Recently, the “Investigations Department of the IRS” left a threatening voicemail on my phone, claiming that “the IRS has a lawsuit against me for my failure to fully pay the required amount of taxes.” So, I decided to give them a call and see exactly how much I owed “the government.” After about 40 minutes on the phone, bearing the threats of arrest from both the representative who kindly gave me her fake name and badge number and her senior representative, I concluded the call with words too sharp to share — and feeling good about wasting their precious time.

These shysters are professionals and, if caught off-guard, they will lead you straight to a “government store” to wire them whatever money you can scrounge in order for them to drop the fake arrest warrant. Additionally, the timing is impeccable as tax season is in full gear.

Things to Remember

  1. The tax man, aka the IRS, will NEVER call you. If there is a screw up with how you filed your taxes, they will send you an official letter. So, ignore these calls and voicemails, unless you have some time on your hands and want to keep them on the line for a while. You can also file a complaint at the FTC’s website right here.
  2. We know you hear this all the time, but people keep doing it. Do not open emails that are not from trusted sources and are unexpected. Phishing incidents continue to increase.
  3. If you’re on the hook and forgot about the first item on this list, maybe this one will stick: You will never have to wire money to anyone unless it’s an actual debt collector (see number 4).
  4. If you are on the line with a legitimate debt collector of a debt you are completely aware of and are ready to pay it off, try to sending the amount using your bank’s online bill pay. The bill pay sends a physical check instead of giving them direct access to your bank account through a wire transfer. Another best practice is to open up a separate checking account for recurring payment arrangements just to cover your ass(ets).
  5. In regards to other scammers, you probably didn’t win a three-day Caribbean cruise sweepstakes, unless you’re certain you entered it.
  6. You also didn’t win the lottery. Sorry.
  7. The most important thing to remember is that if the call is a big surprise or the email is weirdly unexpected to you, take caution. Let’s not get FKD’d more than we already are.

Takeaway

The fast-paced world of constant emails, phone calls coupled with crippling debt and financial uncertainty makes us vulnerable to scammers. Remember to slow down and smell the fishy-ness. Keep your guard up and don’t get swindled.

Oh, and thanks to the lovely phone call from a couple of thieves, they reminded me it’s tax season! Here’s a list of tax breaks for millennials, and you can file your taxes for free at the IRS website.

If you have any experiences you’re willing to share, knock yourself out in the comment section. It only helps raise awareness.

Previously posted at GenFKD.