The other day I received a call on my cell phone from a number I did not recognize. My general rule is that unless I know who’s calling, I don’t answer the call and always let it go to voicemail. After all, in today’s world even if you’re on the “do not call list” you still get unsolicited calls trying to sell you one thing or the other. When I played back the voicemail, it was one of those computer generated voices that basically said that unless I contact this number, I was going to be arrested. It was obvious to me this was nothing more than a scam, and I erased the message and didn’t give it any further thought. What was interesting is that the next day, two other people in my office received the exact same call from the scammers.
Phone scams have been around a long time and unfortunately, there’s very little that the government can do. After all, many of these scammers are not even located in the United States. However, there are things that you and I can do to protect ourselves. One of those things is to not give the scammer an opening by calling them back. My initial instinct was to contact the scammer and to sort of play with them; however, I know better. These scam artists are good at what they do and there is no reason whatsoever to contact them. Therefore, if you receive a call like I did, don’t contact them; just ignore it.
One of the more popular phone scams are from scam artists who contact you claiming that they are from the IRS. Typically, these calls are one of two kinds. The first is that they claim you owe money and then they demand immediate payment. Another type of call is from those claiming you’re entitled to a refund and that they need certain information to process your refund. These con artists sometimes sound very convincing and they can even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. Once again, we have to be smarter than the scam artists, and one way to do that is to recognize that there are certain things the IRS will not do, but the scam artist will do. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be the IRS demanding immediate payment and you have not been previously contacted by the IRS through the mail, you know the call is bogus. You also know you’re dealing with a scam artist if the person on the phone demands that you make payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card. In addition, if the person on the phone is threatening to bring in the local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying your taxes, you know the call is bogus.
It is so important that we recognize that we are the last line of defense to protect ourselves from being scammed. When we receive calls threatening arrest or claiming we owe money, the red flag should immediately go up. To protect yourself, never give out personal financial information such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers, as well as passwords, to anyone, whether they claim to be a creditor or from the IRS. More likely, these people are scam artists and they need to be ignored.
According to reports, in the month of June, there were over four billion robocalls made throughout the United States. This number is growing because technology makes these calls very inexpensive for the scam artists to make. Therefore, to protect yourself, if someone contacts you and is demanding money your answer is no. Don’t give in to their pressure. Don’t give your credit card number, bank account, Social Security or other personal information to an unknown caller. The bottom line, the government doesn’t have the resources to protect us. We have to protect ourselves.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. His website is www.bloomassetmanagement.com. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.