The ingenuity of scam artists never ceases to amaze. Every time you think that "this one" cannot be topped, a new scam rears its ugly head. This one, for example.
You've just checked into a hotel and you gave the front desk clerk your credit card for any charges to your room. Shortly thereafter the hotel gets a call asking for your room number and the call is put through.
You pick up the phone and are told it's the front desk and there's a problem with your charge card information. You're asked to repeat your credit card number and the last three digits on the reverse side of the card. The caller sounds so professional that you oblige by providing the information. And, you guessed it, the caller was a scam artist.
Your room number was probably picked at random and you are the unlucky victim, but that doesn't make the mess that results any easier to bear. What should you have done? Tell the caller you will go down to the front desk and straighten out the matter there.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is an excellent source of scam information and warnings, and so is the federal government, which is constantly on guard for, among other things, identity and tax preparer theft.
According to a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Information (TIGTA), there has been a "steep rise" in identity theft and phone fraud scams involving thousands of victims who have collectively paid more than $2 million as a result of a single scam in which individuals claiming to be IRS officials called taxpayers and demanded money.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:
- If you owe or think you owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees at that number can help with a payment issue if there is one.
- If you don't owe taxes, then call and report the incident to the TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC,gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
- It's important to remember that the IRS does not call or email taxpayers about tax matters. If you get such a call, you are talking to a scammer.
The latest scams from AARP's Fraud Watch Network include a job guarantee if you pay a fee, then the job does not materialize; you're hired, but you first have to cash a check and provide a portion to your new employer (the check is a fake and you are responsible for the entire amount of the deposit; the emailed application requires your Social Security number and your banking information. The scammers can now steal your money and your identity.
Also be very wary of emails from individuals (using a personal name) that say "Wire Transfer Payment Confirmation." I have received several, always with a different name, but with the same general message. It reads, "I am glad we were able to resolve the issue with the payment. I have attached the confirmation slip from the completed wire of $23,040 into your designated account. Please view the slip attached and get back to me ASAP." There is a link attached to the email and, although I didn't open it, it certainly asks for personal banking information "in order to complete the transaction."
Every such email I have received said the same basic thing and in every instance the money "to be wired" was in the many thousands of dollars. Do not fall into this trap. It is a scam.