You’ve worked hard for the money you’ve earned and saved, and you’ve been careful not to overspend by working on your budget and making plans for the future. Unfortunately, there are people out there who would seek to dishonestly take all that away from you or even from your place of business.
The most common way that a person may attempt to scam you out of your hard-earned cash is by impersonating someone or an organization that you trust, like a government official or possibly your boss. They are likely to say that you have an outstanding tax debt, that there are problems with your government benefits, immigration papers, or visa status, and that you need to pay the debt or other fees to fix the problem.
These scammers will often threaten you with a warrant for your arrest or termination if you don’t satisfy an immediate minimum payment requirement while you are on the phone with them. They know that if you hang up, it increases the chance that you will talk to someone else about it and blow their cover.
Scams can come in all forms of communication; email and social media impersonation are very common. They are very clever and well-practiced in their methods, and they will seem very convincing. It could appear to come from a friend, relative, work colleague, or even something you subscribe to like Amazon or Netflix.
The demand will be money or personal information that will allow them access to your accounts where they can then take as much as they want. They will either manipulate you with a threat, a heartfelt story, or a convincing link to a page where you need to enter your details to ‘recover your account.’
As a general rule, be suspicious. If you have an unexpected contact asking you for money or information, try not to panic, but take a moment to consider if this is a valid request. Be extra suspicious the more urgent it seems and if the person is putting high pressure on you to resolve a payment immediately.
Verify the identity of the contact through an independent source. Don’t be afraid to tell the caller that you need to verify if this is real; you have the right to hang up the call or not respond to the email. Call the person or agency through a number that you know to be genuine, do not use the information that the contact has provided to you. Search online for the actual contacts from the agency they are claiming to be. Frequently there will even be scam warnings on their official website; does it sound familiar to the call you just had?
Do not click links within the email sent to you; instead, hover over the link with your mouse, and it will reveal the address that the link will take you to. Is it genuine? Sometimes it can appear authentic, but there will be slight differences. Do your own search of the legitimate company and compare the links.
If you are still unsure, don’t click on it. Don’t forward it to anyone else, but ask someone else who might have a better understanding and know what to look for. Never let yourself feel pressured into doing something you are not certain about.
Be wary of unusual methods of payment requests, like gift or store cards, wire transfers, or bitcoin. A government agency and trusted businesses will never ask you to pay by these methods. The IRS will always send written confirmation of anything you owe prior to any phone calls, in fact, they rarely call; you will receive multiple written notices before they ever call you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the written confirmation if you have not received it. The IRS should already have your current address, ask them to verify it, don’t give out your address. If you have recently moved, they should be able to verify your previous address, at least.
If you have been unfortunate enough to have recently encountered one of these clever scammers and become one of their many victims, there are steps you can take to limit the damage and protect yourself and others from further loss.
If you’ve sent money or shared banking or card details, contact your bank immediately to see if they can stop or reverse the transaction, or maybe even close your account.
If it was a scam email faking to be a legitimate organization or a phone call, this could be reported to law enforcement or to the organization they are pretending to be. Many organizations like the IRS have dedicated pages, emails, and phone numbers for reporting these scams so that they can potentially prevent more people from falling victim.
Finally, you can warn people about it. Share what happened with friends and family, or even on social media. Imagine if you had been given a warning about the scam before it happened! The more educated people are, the less power these scammers have.
If you need help figuring out personal finance issues from scams to credit reports to paying off your debt, call us at 800-994-3328 or click here to receive a free debt consolidation quote.