We want you be to safe and financially secure so here are a few of the most common schemes and scams be to watchful for. Never give your personal or financial information to anyone you do not know or trust, either in person, over the phone, or on-line.
The Washington State Office of the Attorney General has great tips to help you avoid a variety of common scams including:
- Foreign Lottery
- Home Improvement Schemes
- Internet Scams
- Investment Scams
- Living Trust Scams
- Sweepstakes Scams
- Travel Scams
- Relative in Need Scam
Many people in our country, especially seniors, care deeply about others, and they want to do something good for those who are less fortunate. Unbelievably, criminals will use these altruistic feelings to feather their own nests. These con criminals will make you think you are giving to a good cause but the result is that the money goes to them.
The Opening Pitch
The mail and phone calls are often used in many scams seeking donations for everything from helping disabled veterans, to aiding injured animals, to feeding orphans in Africa, to lobbying Congress about Social Security. A common ploy is to take a current news event such as a natural disaster and claim to be collecting for that cause.
The presentation is quite simple: the mailer or caller describes the charity or cause in vivid detail, making it seem worthy. The pitch may play on your feelings of guilt over the crisis or your desire to help others.
It is often difficult to determine after the fact if the donation you made was to a bonafide charity and if the money actually got to the cause that was presented. Some charitable fundraisers keep over 80 percent of the money they raise.
How to Avoid It
The best thing you can do before you give to any charity is to find out how much of the money you give goes to the charitable purpose and how much goes to the cost of fundraising. You can do this by asking the charity when they call or by contacting the Secretary of State’s office and asking for the registration number and financial reports for the charity in question.
Some charity-minded people develop their own annual charity-giving plan. They select charities after investigating them thoroughly. As part of the plan, they decide how much and to whom they will give each year and then say no thank you when other charities call or write during the balance of the year. This strategy allows the givers to know where their money is going and to avoid being drawn in by a phony emotional appeal.
The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.
Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.
“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.
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Other characteristics of these scams include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Callers have been known to “spoof” phone numbers to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and call pretending to be a Sheriff Deputy stating that you have failed to appear on a jury summons and that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. The caller offers to clear the warrant if you provide your personal information and/or agree to pay a fine by sending in a money order.
If you receive any such a call, hang up. The Sheriff Office does not issue warrants or phone jurors that fail to appear.