By Lorie Lewis Ham
People have been trying to trick people out of their money for as long as money has existed, and out of their property for longer than that. There have always been those in the world who make scamming others their life’s “work.” Sadly, as time passes even more ways become available for people like that to take advantage of others.
We have all received scam emails, texts, letters, and phone calls, and now they even use social media to reach out and try to take your money and your identity. Some are obvious, such as calls about your student loan debt when you don’t have any, but many are far sneakier. Because most of us spend so much time on our phones, text scams have become much more common in the last few years as well.
During this time of year, IRS scams are particularly common. Nerdwallet lists some of the latest scams in a February 2022 article and provides some tips on how to spot them. This type of scam often uses fear tactics, and generally tries to convince you that they are with the IRS—which of course they are not. Included on Nerdwallet’s list are:
- This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement, and we’re putting a lien or levy on your assets (this bureau does not exist)
- If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested
- We’ll cancel your social security number
They can also appeal to our desire for more money:
- Click here to see some details about your tax refund
- We recalculated your tax refund and you need to fill out this form
Something important to remember when dealing with this type of scam is that the IRS does not initiate contact via email, text message, or social media channels and they do not demand, make threats, or ask people for personal financial information. Each year the IRS alerts people to the latest versions of these scams. According to eFile, the IRS puts out a “Dirty Dozen” list. The 2021 list was released in June of 2021 and includes scams targeting taxpayers, targeting tax preparers, soliciting form W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals, fraudsters posing as a Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, and email, phishing and malware schemes.
AARP has a Fraud Watch Network and their team of fraud fighters provides real-world tips and tools to help you protect yourselves and your family. You can look up and report a scam in your area and sign up for free “Watchdog Alerts.” They even have a phone number that you can call if you suspect a scam 877-908-3360.
The Federal Trade Commission also has information on avoiding and reporting scams, as does USAgov. Consumer Fraud Reporting.org has a list of the most common scams in 2022, which include fake Facebook friend scams, online dating, and casting agent scams. There are even ones targeting website owners and businesses, including one that claims that you are using photos of theirs without their permission and they are going to sue you.
Sadly, even though scams have existed forever, the ways in which people can be scammed continues to increase and the scammers are getting more inventive. Our best defense is to stay informed and be careful—we need to be smarter than the scammers!
Do you have a story to share about a scam you have come across? Please share it with us on our Facebook page. You may be able to help someone else avoid it, or maybe you have one to share that is so crazy we can all enjoy a laugh. Stay careful and vigilant out there!