Protect Yourself (and Your Wallet) From Phone Scams

March 19th, 2020

Chances are, if you have a phone, you’ve picked up only to hear an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line. But if you’ve ever gotten a call from someone asking for money or telling you that you owe money, chances are you’ve gotten a spam call. Some robocalls are helpful reminders for things like appointments or prescription pickups. However, some of them are harmful scams that you shouldn’t answer. Here’s how to tell which calls are scams, and what to do when you receive them.

There are a few common types of scams.

  • Accident Scams: There are a few variations of accident scams. In some cases, the caller acts like they are your grandchild. They will say they have been in an accident and need a wire transfer immediately. Other times the caller may act like you injured them in an incident and demand you get a lawyer to avoid jail time.
  • Arrest Scams: Callers claim a family member has been arrested and requires bail money. Alternatively, some callers claim you are under arrest and someone—usually a vague or unnamed party—is monitoring you.
  • IRS Scams: Callers demand payment for “unpaid taxes” or other undefined tax violations. The caller may threaten you with arrest, deportation, or license revocation if you don’t pay them.
  • Utility Scams: Scammers pose as utility workers for companies like “Gas & Co.” or “Water & Co.” and threaten to shut off your service if you don’t pay them.

Here’s how to handle a scam call.

While these calls are meant to make you panic, it’s important to remain calm. It’s even more important not to give out any personal information. Never give out your date of birth or Social Security number over the phone UNLESS you have verified who you are speaking to.

If you receive any of these types of calls, it’s perfectly okay to hang up. It’s okay to feel anxious because of a scam call. However, one thing that can help is independently verifying the information. A quick phone call can easily help you make sure your family members or loved ones are safe. You can also dial the number on your utility bills to make sure you don’t owe an outstanding balance.

One other thing to remember is that utility companies and the IRS will not call you without notifying you about unpaid taxes or late payments by mail. Most companies will also give you a choice of how to pay your bill—they won’t demand a money order or prepaid debit card. If you owe money to the IRS, they give you a chance to dispute or question it.

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