Tax Day has come and gone... but diligence is required on your part!
This is the time of year that scammers "come out of the woodwork." Their scams to get your money have become much more sophisticated. Below I will outline some of the ways that you can be scammed, but remember the old adage generally attributed to Edgar Allen Poe: "Believe nothing that you hear, and only half of what you see."
The first method of scamming someone out of their money is one of the oldest and least technical..... the phone. Today's technology can spoof (falsify) Caller ID so that what you see on the phone display is NOT who is actually calling. It may say, "Internal Revenue Service", but it is most likely a scammer from another country. So.. you can't believe what you see.
Then... these scammers hire actors, or "voice specialists" that speak fluent English and will call you and sound official and scare you by saying that if you do not pay your tax bill promptly, you will be arrested.
If you do get a call like this.... do NOT believe them. Instead HANG UP, and then you, yourself, look up the phone number for the IRS and call them. PLEASE don't write down the number that the caller gives you to call the IRS.... that's fake.
I received a call like this yesterday (on Tax Day) and the gentleman on the phone was very convincing.... up to a point. When he said that if I did not comply by sending them GreenDot prepaid credit card numbers (a RED FLAG if there ever was one, just like if they ask for you to pay with gift cards and the like) I would be arrested. I answered, "OK. Send the police." At this point, the scammer became more upset and said that I would be in JAIL (he emphasized that word). Again, I said, "OK. Send them. I'll pack my bags and be waiting." At this point, the scammer launched into a tirade of curse words and hung up on me. What happened to the professional? Nothing.... because there never was one!
The second method of scamming someone is by email. This is called "Phishing". It's a coined term based on the real word "fishing", meaning to "try and reel in a sucker through an official looking email". Scammers have gotten VERY sophisticated in generating FAKE emails that look so real that sometimes they even fool the actual companies themselves!
Because there are SO MANY types and variants to the Phishing scam, I want to give you some simple advice:
NEVER CLICK ON ANY LINK
IN ANY EMAIL
FOR ANY REASON
NO MATTER HOW "OFFICIAL" IT LOOKS!!!!!
If you are concerned that the "official" email from the IRS, PSEG-LI, Chase, Bank of America, TD Bank, National Grid, etc., etc., etc., may be legitimate, again... DON'T CLICK on anything! BUT, rather.... go get your latest bill (or look at the back of your credit/bank card) and call the number there and ask them!!! You will be quite surprised when they tell you that there's nothing wrong with your account.
PT Barnum was attributed as saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." I say.... don't be the sucker!!!!
The third method of scamming someone is by text message. Yes.... text message on your mobile (cell) phone!!! Your cell phone number is "out there in the world" and it's only a matter of time before you get a fake text message. If you do not recognize the phone number that sent you the text, or if the number that sent the text is a garbled jumble of numbers (I received one last month supposedly from: 87759620000014145213642100887963.... what the heck number is that supposed to be?) it does NOT matter what the text SAYS..... it's fake. DELETE IT.
NEVER, I repeat.... NEVER respond to a phony text message. If you do, you will only let the person(s) on the other end know that they have a live person on the other end and you will be BOMBARDED with texts. INSTEAD.... delete it. Block the number.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMMERS and STOP ROBOCALLS?
For your mobile (cell) phone, you can subscribe to a service that blocks robocalls/scammers.
One that has received high marks from Consumer Reports is: NoMoRobo
Their website is: http://nomorobo.com/
I use their service. And for $1.99 per month per device it's WELL worth it. I went from getting 30 or MORE robo/scam calls a DAY to maybe one slipping in every few WEEKS.
AND.. get this... if you have Optimum Voice as your phone service, NoMoRobo is FREE for your landline!! Yup.. free. (this will NOT work for Verizon home/landline phone service).
I do NOT work for NoMoRobo, nor do I get any commission or any goods/service for my recommendation.... I just believe in sharing a good thing with others.
The major mobile carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile all have their own spam call blocking apps that are or will be rolled out to the public very soon.
BUT.... even with this service.... you STILL NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS!!
"If it's too good to be true..... it usually is".
OTHER TYPES OF SCAMS
In the news recently are stories of scammers becoming more brazen and bold with their scams. Here are some examples.
Loved One Injured--- This is a phone call that you get that the scammer will tell you that s/he is either your "grandchild" and s/he needs money to bail out of jail/pay medical bills/ etc OR the scammer tells you that s/he is a medical professional/ police officer/ or other official and that your son/daughter/grandchild/etc is injured , etc.... DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. I know it's hard, especially as a parent , but PLEASE...... ASK THEM QUESTIONS. Ask them to name your child/grandchild. Ask them SPECIFICS.... that's where the scam will break down.... they will NOT be able to answer intimate details of your loved ones. EVEN BETTER..... hang up and then YOU CALL your loved one to check on him/her.
Social Security Scams- Someone calls from purportedly the Social Security Administration to tell you that "there is a problem with your Social Security Number and they want to help you fix it" (or a variant). PLEASE.... no matter how OFFICIAL they sound...... do NOT give away your Social Security Number over the phone to the person who called you!!!!!! NEVER!!! Hang up. Then YOU call the SSA and inquire if you are nervous/curious. You will find out that this was a scam.
Tech Support Scams- This one happens more and more frequently. You get a call (OR a window will pop up on your screen) from "Windows Technical Support" or anything that sounds like Microsoft, etc. and they tell you that "your computer has reported viruses to the tech center".... NO... NO.. NO.. This is NOT TRUE!!!! Your computer (no matter whether it's Windows or Mac based) cannot do that!! PLEASE... do NOT send any money to "fix" your computer. They will NOT. You will lose money and actually GET an infection!! What to do? If you are nervous... call a computer professional and have them check it out. HERE is a video from the FTC on this issue: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/03/ftcs-tech-support-takedown-2019
There are SO MANY MORE types of scams..... too many to list here. So, please take a moment and visit the FTC's Consumer Awareness website to read about the many, many scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
In summary.... the old adage: Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) is very true.... be wary... be careful... be cautious.... DON'T fall for a scam..... ESPECIALLY in tax season!!
~~written by Russ, your Quogue Library I.T. Coordinator on 16 April 2019.