Two Common Government Employee Impersonation Scams: What to Watch For
One of the biggest threats that taxpayers are facing these days is an aggressive scam where criminals call victims and pretend to be IRS agents. The goal? To steal money.
All year but especially during tax filing season, the IRS will see a big surge in the number of scam calls, which tell victims that they will be arrested, deported, or have their driver’s license revoked if they don’t pay a fake tax bill.
How the Scams Work
These scammers make calls to people and claim to be from the IRS. They inform the victim that they have an unpaid tax bill, that must be paid immediately, either through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. To make this sound even more legitimate, the scammers might also send a phishing email or make robo-calls to the victims.
To get the victims to pay, and to pay quickly, they make threats, as mentioned above. On top of this, they also can alter the number they are calling from through caller ID spoofing services to make it look like the IRS is actually calling. The scammers also will use badge number and IRS titles to make themselves sound more official.
The IRS is onto these scams, of course, and it has released information to remind taxpayers to be aware of them. For instance, a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, TIGTA, states that there are more than 12,000 people who have paid more than $63 million due to these phone scams over the past few years.
Recognizing an IRS Scam
There are certain things that the IRS will never do, so if you see any of these things, or you are asked to them, you can be sure that it’s a scam.
The IRS will NEVER:
- Threaten to bring in local police for not paying your tax bill
- Ask you to pay via a gift card or wire transfer
- Demand that taxes are paid without question or the opportunity to appeal
- Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone
- Call about an unexpected refund
- Call to collect money without first sending a tax bill
If you get a call from the “IRS” asking for any of this, hang up.
There are Social Security Administration Scams Out There, Too
The IRS is not the only government agency plagued by scams. People are also getting scammed by people claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, or SSA. The goal here is to try to get your Social Security number.
Basically, someone will call you and claim to be from the SSA in an attempt to collect your personal information, including your Social Security number. If you get a call like this, you should definitely not engage with the caller, nor should you give them any money or personal information.
One of the ways that scammers are so good at getting this information is that they try to trick their victims by saying their Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious activity, or that it has been connected to a crime. They will ask the victim to confirm their SSN in order to reactivate it.
Sometimes, they might even go further with this and tell the victim that their bank account is about to be seized, but they can keep the money safe…by putting it on a gift card, and then sending the code to the scammer.
You might wonder why people fall for this, but it really is easy for these scammers to change their phone number to show the same number as the SSA on caller ID. But this is a fake number…it’s not really the Social Security Administration.
There is also the fact that the scammers will say that someone has used your personal Social Security number to apply for a credit card, and because of this, you could lose your Social Security benefits. They also might say that your bank account is close to being seized, and you must withdraw your money or wire it to a “safe account,” which is, of course, the account of the scammer.
Here’s some of the details about these scams that you need to know:
- Your Social Security number won’t be suspended. You never have to verify your number to the SSA, either and the agency can’t just seize your bank account.
- The SSA will never call you about taking your benefits or tell you that you must wire money to them. If you are asked for money from the SSA, it is a scam.
- The SSA’s number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are using this to appear on caller ID. So, it looks legitimate. So, if you get a call from this number, hang up and call it back. This way, you can be sure you are talking about the SSA and get the information you need…or find out that someone was trying to scam you.
Do not give your Social Security number to anyone over the phone or via email…also, don’t give your credit card number or bank account number to anyone over the phone or via email.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.
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