There is a season for nearly everything: wedding season, vacations, allergies. However, crime never takes a holiday. If it seems that criminals have ramped up their attempts to separate you from your cash, you're not imagining it. A quick search for IRS SCAM pops up nearly 3 million hits. It's not just IRS scams, either. There are scams for computer repairs, selling puppies, and buying vehicles listed on yard sale sites. The target victim is the elderly, with 1 in 5 senior victimized each year on average. There is not much the government can do to curtail this as the majority of the scams originate overseas and are carried VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) which means there is no governing authority. The bad guys call and make threats that the police are coming to take you to jail if you don't go to Target and buy gift cards.
Screen shot of the IRS scam number
So what can you do to keep yourself safe?
First is to avoid the calls. If you don't recognize the number on caller ID, let the voicemail pick it up. If you don't recognize the caller in the message, don't return the call. Once you have engaged these guys, they realize the number they called is a live number and will sell it to their buddies. Your calls will increase. The IRS does not call you. If you do answer the phone and the caller becomes threatening or harassing, hang up.
Second, never give out personal information over the phone. This is doubly true if you didn't initiate the call. Be more aware of who you are calling. A simple search of the phone number will give you a wealth of information. A friend was selling a truck on Craigslist and received a message from a prospective buyer. The friend searched the phone number and pages of complaints regarding scams on that number came back. A search for the IRS scam number came back the same.
If you are unsure if a call is legitimate, call the agency telephone number from the phone book listing. This goes for all scams, including law enforcement impersonation scams.
Lastly, keep an eye on your aging relatives and neighbors. Talk to them about these kinds of scams. If you know they are being harassed, block the numbers calling them. As a last resort, change their phone number. These criminals are becoming more creative, educated about our psyche, and how our systems operate. We have to be ever vigilant in warding off attacks from scammers.