Scam alert: The IRS won’t phone you to make threats


Police are warning residents in West Springfield about phone scammers pretending to be IRS agents. Actually, this scam is happening throughout the country – and it’s likely to continue because the IRS says that thieves have conned more than $5 million from victims already.

Here’s how it works: You get a call from an alleged agent who tells you that you owe back taxes. These are pretty sophisticated scammers – they may spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling. They may even know the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. The caller threatens to jail you, send police, deport you, seize property or freeze accounts if you don’t take immediate action. The callers are said to be very aggressive and threatening and make repeat calls. After they hang up, they may have other people call you to pretend they are local police or other officials who “corroborate” the scam.

Another variation is to tell you they owe you money and they need details of your bank account to send it to you. There’s always a “you need to act immediately” aspect to the scam.

One North Carolina couple describes how the scam that bilked them out of $16,000 went: they withdrew money from the bank and bought a prepaid credit card and read the number to the fake agent over the phone.

Who are the most susceptible victims? The elderly. Immigrants worried about deportation. People who actually do owe money and are worried about it. But anyone, really. Most of us think we are too smart to be scammed but even smart people can be fooled by master criminals who know how to expertly prey on our trust, our fears or our greed.

If you have elderly parents or neighbors, you may want to alert them to this scam!

Here’s what the IRS says:
The IRS has issued repeated warnings but have issued another recent phone scam warning due to the volume of the calls happening around the country.

There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:

  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.

Central New England Scam Alert: the FBI Isn’t Calling You About a Loan

phone scamThe regional office of the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to beware of a phone scam in which a caller claims to be from the FBI.

“The Better Business Bureau of Central New England (BBB), based in Worcester, issued the warning in response to a call from an area resident. According to the BBB, the scammer stated the FBI has been monitoring the consumer’s online activity and is looking to collect on an outstanding loan balance. To clear the debt, the consumer must wire transfer money to the officer, the BBB said.” Learn more about this latest phone scam in the Worcester Business Journal

It’s one that has been going around for quite some time in various parts of the country and the callers are very aggressive and threatening. See the FBI’s notice:New Twists to Telephone Collection Scam Related to Delinquent Payday Loans  

Common Post-Disaster Scams

After any disaster, there’s usually a second wave of problems that can occur in the form of what has become known as disaster fraud. People who want to contribute to the recovery are scammed by phony organizations, bogus emails, and fraudulent websites. And adding insult to injury, people who have suffered devastating home and property losses are often targeted by crooked contractors, fly-by-night home repair scammers, and identity thieves. That’s not all: in the months after a disaster, thousands of flood-damaged cars make their way to the market duping unwary consumers. (See our prior post: Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car.)
Below, we’re including an excerpt from our EAP’s blog that offers useful links on common post-disaster charity and home repair scams. (For more resources, see their Hurricane Sandy Recovery Toolkit.
Sadly, there is no shortage of fraudulent opportunists willing to take advantage of people’s generous nature. Be particularly careful of solicitations via phone, email, or social networking sites. The FTC Warns Consumers: Charity and Home Repair Scams May Appear After a Disaster. See the FTC Charity Checklist to get tips on how to avoid scams. You can also check out more a charity in advance through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Disaster Recovery Scams – The FTC talks about common disaster recovery scams.
After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home – If your house has been damaged by a natural disaster, you may look for a reputable contractor to help with repair and restoration. Inevitably, the demand for qualified contractors after a disaster usually exceeds the supply. Enter the home repair rip-off artist, who may overcharge, perform shoddy work or skip town without finishing your job. This guide from the Federal Trade Commission the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers tips for consumers who may be facing major repairs after a disaster.
Disaster Fraud – The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud discusses post-disaster contractors and adjusters fraud.
Report Fraud: The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

Would you recognize this ATM fraud?

Technology security expert Brian Krebs asks if you’d have spotted this skimming fraud device when you went to use your ATM? ATM skimmers are card-reading devices that cover the real card slot, and are usually installed in conjunction with a camera to record the PIN number. Skimmers can be affixed at bank ATMs, freestanding ATMs, ATM-enabled gas station pumps, and anyplace else that an ATM might be found.
ATM skimming devices are getting more sophisticated – they’ve even been found in high-traffic bank lobbies. But experts say that by being alert and cautious, you can minimize your risk of being a scam victims. To help raise your awareness of what to look for, we’ve gathered some examples with pictures and visuals:

Tips to avoid ATM skimmers
We’ve gleaned these “best practice” tips from some of the articles, linked above:

  • Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs
  • When using an ATM, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN
  • Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM
  • Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken
  • If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM, alert the bank or the police right away.