“Can you hear me now?”
No, this isn’t an old Verizon commercial. It’s another scam rearing its ugly head just in time for tax season. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned businesses and consumers to be cautious of unusual emails, phone calls, and links that could make them, and others, potential victims.
The IRS publishes an annual list of the most common scams that you might encounter at any point of the year called the “Dirty Dozen.” While you could be targeted at any time, the IRS says scammers are most active during tax season.
It’s not fun having to do taxes, but we all have to do it. By reading up and informing yourself on scams going around, you could save yourself from putting your hard-earned money in the hands of a crook.
You’ve probably received an email claiming to be from a retailer, financial institution, or another trusted source asking you to follow a link. If so, you were probably targeted by a phishing scam.
This type of attack is where scammers pose as a legitimate source hoping to get your personal information over the internet. Even if the source looks credible, never open suspicious links or messages because your information could be at risk. Take the safest route and delete the message.
The IRS reported that it saw a 400% surge in phishing incidents in the 2016 tax season. Needless to say, they’ll be back this year.
If criminals get their hands on your information, they can use it to file false tax returns to claim bogus refunds.
Fraudulent phone calls
Just so we’re clear, the IRS is NEVER going to call you demanding money, ask for your personal information, or threaten you with arrest. However, that doesn’t stop people from falling for it.
If you ever get a call where someone claiming to be from the IRS saying you owe money and could be arrested if you don’t pay, just hang up. Scammers disguise the Caller ID to make it look like it’s coming from the IRS through Caller ID “spoofing,” meaning they manipulate it to show a legitimate number.
Another phone scam making its rounds is the “can you hear me now?” scam. How it works is you get a call and the first thing you hear is “Can you hear me now?” If you get this call, hang up immediately.
What can potentially happen is the scammer is wanting to record you saying “yes” so they can authorize unwanted charges. Even if they don’t do anything with your recorded answer, they can still sell your number to other solicitors since they know it’s an active number that answers calls from unknown numbers.
Your best bet is to not answer at all.
Criminals don’t only target individual consumers. They go after businesses as well.
The IRS has warned companies about a scam that tricks the human resource department into giving up employee information and forms. Scammers send fake emails pretending to be a high-level employee asking for W-2 forms and personal employee information.
Once they get this information, scammers can steal your identity and file fake returns. If you ever get an unusual request like this, verify with the employee is was sent from and delete the email immediately.
Giving to a good cause is a great thing to do and there are probably some charities you’d want to support. Next thing you know you get a phone call from said charity wanting you to make a donation with your credit card over the phone. Click.
Scammers look to confuse you by making fake charity names similar to the ones you might know hoping to talk you into giving your account information. If you really want to give, look up the charity’s website or phone number to give safely.
Always keep your information safe. Especially during tax season. If you ever get a call, email, or text message from anyone trying to gain access to your information or scam you out of money, call the FTC and IRS to let them know.