“Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.” That was the message on my answering machine when I returned home from work.
Tax identity theft is the theme of the week, but it’s not the only tax scam we’re talking about. Complaints to the FTC about IRS imposter scams have shot up over the last year — by almost 50,000 complaints.
Here’s what happens: You get a call from a scammer pretending to be with the IRS, saying you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay taxes you owe right now. You’re told to wire it or put it on a prepaid debit card. They might threaten to deport you or say you’ll lose your driver’s license. Some even know your Social Security number, and they fake caller ID so you think it really is the IRS calling.
Assistant Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
When the headlines change, scammers follow: Natural disaster? Charity scams will follow. Medicare open season? Health care scams will follow. So we know from experience that, when immigration is in the headlines, scams will follow.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re in the immigration process – or would like to be – regardless of what’s in the news.
Tax season is getting close — and for some people, so is an experience with tax identity theft or IRS imposters. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You usually find out something’s wrong after you file your tax return.
Also, IRS imposters work year-round — posing as the IRS when they call and say you owe taxes. They even threaten to arrest you if you don’t put money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and can fake caller ID information to make it look like it really is the IRS calling. But it’s not. Ever.
We began 2014 by announcing that a court ordered Oro Marketing to temporarily shut down operations for bogus business practices. This phone fraud targeted Spanish-speaking Latinos, promising them packages of high-end goods that they could – supposedly – re-sell to make extra money. The company charged between $400 and $490 for the packages, but only delivered low-quality, off-brand products that were impossible to sell. According to the FTC, no one made any money – except the defendants, who misled people to steal their money.
Counsel, FTC's DIvision of Consumer & Business Education
Do you offer your professional services as a babysitter, nanny, or other kind of caregiver? You may have used websites that can match you up with potential clients – sites like Care.com or Sittercity.com. These sites can be a convenient and efficient way to drum up business. But scammers may misuse these sites. FTC staff has seen hundreds of complaints about con artists cheating caregivers with a counterfeit check scheme that asks you to send payment to a third party. Details may vary, but, in general, the scam works like this:
Listing your business in a directory can be an effective way to advertise the products or services you offer potential customers. But be sure you know what you’re getting for your money... and that you even asked for the listing in the first place.
Thinking about giving a fancy new gadget as a holiday gift? Or maybe there’s something on your wish list that Santa forgot to bring? If so, you might be tempted by an ad for high-tech at a low price. But if a merchant other than Amazon.com asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card, it’s probably a scam. In fact, Amazon’s gift card terms don’t allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides amazon.com and a few specific sites.