Five tips to protect you from scammers

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LauraLast week we received two threatening voicemail messages on our home phone. The callers suggested we owed the IRS money and that a search warrant had been issued for our arrest.

Here’s the thing: My husband has worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades, and I work in the wealth management industry. We knew for certain that those calls were fake.

Still, they were creepy.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced the arrest of five people in Miami, who are accused of tricking 1,500 people into paying a total of $2 million to a fake IRS account. This is just one example of a wide-reaching scheme that has scammed 6,400 victims out of more than $36.5 million, an average loss of $5,700.

One report suggested that scams like this have increased 250 percent in the first quarter of 2016. As software and information mining technology becomes more sophisticated and widely available, consumers need to become even more vigilant.

Here are some tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim of scams like this:

  • Know that the IRS would never call or email you. They will only contact you via postal mail. If someone calls you and says they are representing the IRS, you know this is a scam.
  • Don’t transfer funds from your account to a government account through a third party. In this recent incident, scammers demanded payment in iTunes and Toys R Us gift cards. At least 328 people paid out a total of $1.4 million this way. There is no way a legitimate government agency would ask you to pay them through a store gift card.
  • Understand that there is an appeal process. The IRS will never demand immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • If you get an email asking you to visit a website or answer personal questions, do not reply and do not click on any links in the email.
  • If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with a government agency, do not give out any information. Simply hang up and contact the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 to report the call. You can also use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page.

If you have any questions about the legitimacy of phone calls, emails or paperwork you’ve received, please feel free to give us a call. We’ll be glad to review them for you.