BEWARE OF UNCLE SCAM – CONS WHICH MASQUERADE AS OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

You might not trust the government, but when contacted by one of its employees, you most likely take notice and follow up with the initial inquiry. This automatic behavior has been drilled into most citizens from childhood. Certain scammers are counting on this fact when posing as various government officials in an attempt to con folks out of their hard-earned money.

The next time a government agency reaches out to you, whether by phone, mail or electronically, be sure to keep an eye out for the following red flags.

IRS SCAMS
As reported by the IRS, the goal in these scams is to steal a victim’s identity, bank information, or credit card numbers. Success in obtaining any of this information will lead to stolen funds, credit cards being opened in the victim’s name and years of headaches trying to straighten the mess out.

Here are some of the most popular:

Rebate Phone Call – A victim is contacted by a person claiming to be from the IRS. They say the victim is entitled to a rebate as result of early tax filing. They request the victim’s bank information in order to make a direct deposit of the substantial rebate. If the taxpayer refuses, the scammer says they are only distributing the rebate via direct deposit, and it will be forfeit if they refuse.

The IRS stresses there is currently no legislation, nor any upcoming, granting a rebate to taxpayers for early filing. In addition, they never require direct deposit for any refunds. If a taxpayer would like to opt for direct deposit, they can complete the appropriate section of their tax return when filing. The IRS will never acquire this information through a telephone call.

Refund Email – A phony email has been circulating which claims to be from IRS and informs the recipient they are eligible for a large tax refund. The email then requires they click on a link directing them to a refund claim form that can be filled out online. This form contains personal information such as name, address and social security number, as well as offering the option to fill in baking information for direct deposit. Though the email and claim form appear quite legitimate, they are totally bogus.

The IRS does send unsolicited emails about tax account matters to any taxpayers. The only way to claim a refund is by filing out a tax return, there is no separate application form.

Paper Check Phone Call – A potential victim gets a call from someone posing as an employee for the IRS. They claim to be calling because a refund check was sent to the victim by the IRS, but never cashed. They then ask for banking information in order to verify whether the check has been received, before re-sending it.

The IRS leaves it up to the taxpayer to cash or not cash any check issued and will not follow up regarding the matter. Also, if a taxpayer has opted for direct deposit, it is their responsibility to provide the correct account number and routing information and at no time will the IRS call to verify.

JURY DUTY SCAM

A simple, but effective, scam geared towards identify theft. The victim receives a telephone call from a person claiming to be an employee at the local court. The caller says the recipient has failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is being issued for their arrest. When the victim rightfully claims to have never received a jury summons, the scammer will then ask to verify the victim’s information starting with a social security number. Some of the bolder con artist will even ask for credit card numbers or banking information.

Most fall for this scam simply by being fooled and caught off-guard with the false threat of a potential arrest warrant being issued. The court will never call directly and request sensitive information. They do so through the mail, and even then, will require you to come down in person before giving up any personal data.

CENSUS TAKER SCAMS

The once-in-a-decade count of American citizenship is about to take place again in 2010. And with that event, scammers are taking an opportunity to try and steal both money and identities from potential census takers.

Already scams have been reported in section of Kentucky and Tennessee where someone will show up at the door claiming to be from the Census Bureau, ask a few census-style questions, as well as glean personal information like social security numbers and bank information, and then finally they solicit a donation. The donation is to cover their “expenses”, such as gas money and lodging while taking the census.

In the Midwest, a mailing has been circulating which purports to be the “2010 Census of Senior Citizens”. The bogus form asks questions such as “Should the Death Tax be permanently repealed?” and “Should Medicare benefits be means tested?” before eventually asking for a $25 donation upon its return.

The initial official pre-paid questionnaire for the census will not mail out until mid-March of 2010. Households not responding to the initial mailing will receive a second questionnaire. If the second form is not returned, and only then, a census taker at that point will visit the home.

Home visits by the 1.4 million will occur between April and July of 2010, and not before that date. If anyone at your door claims to be a census taker before then, they are most likely a scam artist.

Legitimate census takers wear a badge containing the taker’s name and signature. They also carry a black canvas shoulder bag which reads “U.S. Census Bureau.” The does not have a photo ID and you should ask to see a driver’s license or other photo identification to validate the taker’s identity.

The US Census Bureau does not send emails. Any email you receive claiming to be from the Census Bureau is a fake and should be deleted immediately.

Census workers will never solicit donations or any other type of payment.

These are just a few of the scams that clever con artists are using in an attempt to exploit folks life-long relationship with the government. They utilize on fear, the promise of money, and mundane bureaucracy while wrapping it all in the familiar trappings of official government business in an attempt to catch potential victims off-guard. Don’t let them fool you, stay sharp and keep your eyes open.

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