Government Agencies Don’t Dial for Dollars
By Chris Myklebust ~
Last month, I described practical things you can do to protect yourself from frauds that are perpetrated through social networks. A focus on awareness as to what criminals can learn about you and your friends should inspire you to think things through when someone asks you for money online. Remember, criminals are clever. They steal from people using methods that they’ve perfected. They wouldn’t do these things if they weren’t consistently making a lot of money committing fraud.
Building on last month’s article concerning fraud and theft, let’s focus on another way that criminals try to steal from you through “Government Imposter Scams”. Like the Grandparent’s Scam we spoke about last month, criminals will use fear to try to get you to give them your money. Just like all social media scams, criminals try to know just enough about you to sound legitimate. The Government Imposter Scam is another sinister way that criminals want to prey on you because it works. In fact, when you combine the money stolen from people in social media scams, like the Grandparent’s Scam; plus Government Imposter Scams, these frauds resulted in consumer losses of over $328 million in 2017 alone, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
With so much at stake, it’s important to get right to the point! Government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or your local police department will never contact you by phone and ask for information about your bank account, credit card or ask for other private information like your social security number. Getting a call from someone claiming to be from the police or the government can be frightening, but don’t give in. Remember this simple tip and it can save your wealth: if you really owe money to a government agency, the agency will always notify you in writing. Government agencies don’t dial for your dollars.
The best thing you can do when you receive a text message or a phone call from someone wanting money is to just hang up. Now, you know that government agencies don’t make phone calls, don’t give them the chance to confuse you. Don’t let criminals frighten you over the phone. Many times, they will leave you a voice or text message. The message may threaten additional fines or jail time if you don’t call back immediately. The message will always end with information about how you can call them back to pay the tax or a fine. The best thing to do is not call back. Instead, call your local police department or contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov to report the scam. When you take steps to report the scam, remember not to use any phone number that the fraudster left for you to call in their text or voice message. It may seem intuitive but some people make this mistake.
Do you really want to be an informed consumer? Consider checking the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer fraud information page at ftc.gov. It’s updated often with reports of the most recent and sinister ways criminals are trying to steal from you. Please also consider telling your friends about what you learn. You may save someone you know from falling prey to a disastrous financial loss.
And as always, please remember that we’re available to answer your questions. We want to help make sure that you don’t become a victim of any fraud. We can be reached at (303) 894- 2320.