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Consumer Alert: The Latest Scams

Consumer Alert: The Latest Scams

We reported recently on an IRS tax scam that affected businesses. A scammer would contact a business via what appeared to be a legitimate email requesting payroll information for employees. This information was then used to file fraudulent tax returns.

Scammers don’t just target businesses, they also target senior citizens, and even younger citizens for fraudulent purposes.  Here are a few of the latest scams and a few tips on how to prevent them.

Can You Hear Me Now?

This scam has been widely reported by news outlets and social media venues. Here’s how it works:

Someone calls claiming to be from the IRS, but may sound garbled or the volume may be too low. The caller will then repeat clearly “Can you hear me now?” When the person being called answers “Yes” the response is recorded. The caller will then hang up, call back and ask the consumer if he or she is aware of money being owed and asking if the consumer plans to repay the debt. The call recording is then manipulated using the previously recorded “yes” response to make it seem as though the consumer owes the caller money.

How to protect yourself or your loved ones:

With the prevalence of caller ID, many consumers no longer answer a call from an unknown or unrecognized number. A legitimate caller will leave a voicemail message if the matter needs your attention.

Don’t say “yes”. While this may take some getting used to, there are plenty of ways to answer in the affirmative without saying yes. Try “I can hear you now” or “you sound fine to me”. You can even repeat the question back to them: “can YOU hear ME?”

Look up the phone number on the Internet before returning the call. Many sites will provide other user experiences with this phone number, including if it is being spoofed (faking a number to mask another number) or what happened to another user that answered the call.

Grandparent Scam

In this scam a caller claims to be a grandchild travelling overseas. Grandchild claims to have been arrested or mugged and needs money to get out of jail and get back to the U.S. The caller warns that contacting a parent will make the problem worse, and that money should be wired as soon as possible, with wiring details provided.

An overseas call may seem important but if you don’t know anyone living or traveling overseas, it is best not to answer the call. If you do answer, take down the information, then do some research. Call your grandchild, and definitely call the grandchild’s parents to verify that the grandchild is out of town.

The information provided by the scammer to wire money may be useful to the bank involved, or to the authorities, so be sure to pass it along to the appropriate parties.

Whatever you do, do not wire money unless you are certain it is going to be used to help your grandchild.

Debt Collectors

Phony debt collectors may be in touch via phone, mail and even email demanding money to cover unpaid debts. They may even threaten legal action if payment is not made immediately.

The important thing to remember, even if you do owe money, is that you have rights, and debt collectors must follow certain rules including:

  1. No late night or early morning phone calls.
  2. Proof of debt must be made in writing.
  3. They must honor written requests for no further contact.
  4. No abuse, threatening or harassing language or activity is permitted.

Any legitimate collection agency knows and abides by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Scammers will not adhere to these rules and regulations.

Questionable contact from someone claiming to be a debt collector should be reported to the State Consumer Protection Office for your state. Click here to find out more.

Unfortunately, many scammers are operating outside the United States, so there may not be much recourse. Retrieving funds that have been lost is usually not possible.

The best course of action is always to proceed with caution, know who you are dealing with, and double-check the details before offering up any form of payment.

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