Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Impersonators
Imposter scams are the leading type of consumer fraud—and imposters’ favorite strategy is to pretend to be an IRS official. More 2.4 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials, and collectively lost more than $72.8 million from this scam.
The IRS insists that it will not:
- Call to demand immediate payment or call about taxes owed without initially mailing a bill.
- Demand that taxes be paid without providing an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Require a specific payment method or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to involve law enforcement groups.
Medical Identity Theft
Medical identity theft occurs when scammers use someone’s personal information—especially a Medicare or private health insurance number—to obtain prescriptions drugs, treatments, and medical devices in their name. Unfortunately, there are no legal protections of medical identity theft. This can lead to victims being denied necessary medical treatments or health insurance. The scammer and victim’s medical history becomes co-mingled too. It is important to read medical and insurance statements carefully and immediately notify providers and insurers of unrecognized claims.
A con artist calls an older person, masquerading as a grandchild. They may already know the name(s) of grandchildren (information gleaned from social media), or the con may initiate the conversation with “Hi Grandma/Grandpa. Do you know who this is? You may offer a name, then scammer proceeds as this person and explains the fake emergency often adding “I’m so embarrassed. Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.” Scammer is relying on their kind heart, proceeds to persuade them to send money in an untraceable method.
Before contributing to an unfamiliar charity, potential donors should conduct background research to confirm the charity is legitimate and has a solid reputation. The site https://www.charitynavigator.org/ is an excellent place to start. To proceed with a donation, call them, mail a check, or make a gift on the charity’s website. Never provide a gift card or credit card number to an inbound caller. Charity scams ramp up following natural disasters, so be especially alert for con artists attempting to leverage these events.
Sweepstakes and Contest Scams
Legitimate contests and sweepstakes never require winners to spend money to claim their winnings. Know that any legitimate issuer of prizes over $600 will insist upon the winner submitting an affidavit, to verify tax information. That means any check over $600 that doesn’t require an affidavit is a fake. It is essential to understand that anyone who deposits fraudulent funds can be held personally responsible for any losses, potentially including fines and bank account closure.
Social Media Spies
Hackers, scammers, and identity thieves rely on information gleaned from social media sites to execute various con schemes. To reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim:
- Keep privacy settings locked down to control who can see your posts.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
- Don’t share personal phone numbers, home addresses, information about vacations, or details about children and grandchildren (like their names and where they go to school).