7 Tips to Protect Yourself from Phone Scammers

april 20, 2021 | identity theft
woman on smartphone

Phone scammers continue to steal millions of dollars from taxpayers.

Typically, the thieves pose as IRS officials who harass their victims into making payments and divulging personal information that can be used for identity theft. In fact, the scam – which has “targeted 300,000 people” according to WFAA in Dallas – is so serious that the IRS has even developed a dedicated website for reporting such calls.

Here's What You Should Know

The IRS will never contact you by email or phone to ask for your sensitive personal information. The IRS will also never threaten taxpayers with immediate arrest. They won't demand payment on a pre-paid debit card or ask you to recite your credit card numbers via phone. These are key facts for taxpayers to remember.

Thieves also use robocalls to say that your debit or credit card has been locked and you have to enter your card number and information to unlock your card. These scams are sometimes called "vishing" scams. But don't give up your info! The thieves will then use your private information to commit fraud. Any message that contains dire threats or too-good-to-be-true opportunities is instantly suspect. Unless you are the person who made the call, don't provide your private information over the phone.

Some automated calls are perfectly legal, such as calls from candidates running for office, legitimate charities asking for donations, or reminders from businesses with which you have a relationship such as your bank or healthcare provider. However, be wary of sales-related automated calls from companies that you have not given consent to receive. Many of these calls are scam-related.

Scammers will try to scare you by saying you are about to lose something valuable like access to your bank account or credit cards. If you don't respond quickly, you will lose everything! Or you may be promised a benefit, like a free grant from the government, if you provide personal details. You may be asked to wire money, and if you refuse, the caller might start threatening you with arrest, lawsuits, etc.

If you get an automated call/voice or text message, remember the following advice:

  1. Don’t trust caller ID.
    Scammers often have the capability to mask their call information, which is known as spoofing.
  2. Don’t share your personally identifiable information (PII).
    If you are already doing business with the company represented, they should already have all of your information.
  3. Don’t react too quickly.
    It’s very important to remain calm, even if you think you are about to lose a service or if you think a punitive action is about to be taken.
  4. Don't press one or wait on the line for a live person.
    These scam operations do not acknowledge the Do Not Call list and your response may lead to more scam calls.
  5. Don't call back the number provided or click on any website hyperlinks.
    Instead, independently verify that the message was sent by a legitimate source by visiting the company website, calling customer service directly, or some other form of contact, as long as it is initiated by you.

Your service provider may be able to block the incoming telephone number, but keep in mind there are limitations to this service – scammers frequently use multiple numbers, and there are many telephone scams running at any given time. You should report your experience to the FTC directly on their website. For scams involving the IRS, you should also use the IRS’ own form.

Overall, your response should be a simple one. Do not release any personally identifiable information. Instead, hang up the phone.

Get help from the professionals.

For more tips and guidance on how to further protect your personal data from identity thieves, IDShield offers one-on-one consultation to ensure your private information remains private. IDShield, your all-inclusive solution to identity protection, monitoring, and restoration, now brings you enhanced privacy and reputation management consultation.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

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