The other day I got a phone call. The phone rang and since I didn’t recognize the number I let it go to voicemail. When I played the message back, the voice was very harsh and told me that a criminal indictment is being filed against me for non-payment of taxes. The call went on to explain that the only way to stop the proceedings was to contact them immediately and to make a payment. Of course I know this is a scam, so I ignored it. Within an hour, I received two more calls from the same number. Each of the calls was a little more threatening, with the last one claiming that U.S. Marshals were on their way over to arrest me. Needless to say, I knew that the calls were fraudulent, and no matter how threatening they were, it was very easy for me to avoid them.
I’ve talked about this many times in the past, and this is just a reminder that if you receive a call from anyone who claims they’re from the IRS, the best course of action is to not take the call, or if you do take the call, hang up as soon as they claim they’re from the IRS. The IRS does not contact taxpayers out of the blue. Therefore, unless you’ve had some previous dealings with the IRS, their initial contact with you will be through the mail; it won’t be through email or through the phone. Consequently, if your initial contact with the IRS is a phone call or an email, you know you’re being scammed.
When I received the call, part of me wanted to call the people back and play with them for a while. I didn’t do this, and I would also recommend that you don’t do that. Remember, these people are very good at what they do, and there’s no reason whatsoever to open the door for them. In addition, don’t forget if you answer their emails they have a way of attaching viruses and other ways of attacking your computer, and therefore, the only proper course of action is to delete the emails. Remember, it is up to you to protect yourself and your sensitive information. After all, we all know the reality, and that is the government doesn’t have the resources to protect us, it is up to you and I.
As a reminder, identity theft continues to be a major problem, and as I’ve said many times in the past, you and I are our last line of defense. That is why it’s always important that you think twice before providing anyone information such as your Social Security Number. In addition, just because you receive an email, doesn’t mean you need to answer it. When I receive an email from a debt collector claiming I owe money, I don’t open the email; it goes right to trash.
Phone scams are a growing business in America. I recently read that someone estimated that nearly 45 percent of all calls to cellphones are fraudulent. What was even more shocking is this number a few years ago was estimated to be only four percent. Therefore, you have to keep your eyes and ears open when it comes to your cell phone. My advice is to never answer the phone from someone you don’t know, and also keep in mind that government institutions like the IRS and Social Security do not contact people out of the blue. Therefore, if your caller ID says IRS or Social Security, you know you’re being scammed. One other way you know you’re being scammed is if you ever tried to google the phone number the crooks are calling from. It wouldn’t be surprising if the search showed that it was an unsafe number.
It would be nice if I could tell you that the government is on top of these scams and that the crooks are eventually caught. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The scam artists always seem to be one step in front of the government and that is why we have to set rules for ourselves, and most importantly to protect ourselves, we have to follow those rules.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.