Imposter scams on the rise for 2017
IRS imposter scams
Imposter scams that may lead to tax fraud and identity theft increase during tax season. These scams can take many forms, such as fake IRS tax notices, identity theft, and fraudulent phone calls. Read more about these common scams.
NEW SCAM ALERT
In one of the newest forms of IRS imposter fraud, scammers use phishing emails to convince employees with access to sensitive W-2 information to send this data, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and more. Scammers use this information to make fraudulent wire transfers or commit identity theft. Learn more about this scam and how to avoid it.
What you can do
- Do not reply to suspicious emails or messages — delete them.
- Never provide passwords, account numbers, or personal information in response to emails or other messages. The IRS does not solicit information via email, text, or social media.
- Use a unique username and password for tax filing software, and update them at least annually.
Friend/family member imposter scams
You receive a telephone call or email from someone that appears to be legitimate because the scammer has some specific information about you, such as your name and details about your friends and family. Using this method, a scammer can trick you into believing he or she is a friend or family member, claiming to need money for an emergency, such as posting bail, paying a hospital bill, or being detained at an airport. The scammer may pressure you to wire money immediately via online banking or other money transfer services, such as ExpressSend®.
What you can do
- Be cautious about sending money to friends and family until you have verified their identity and confirmed that the request is legitimate.
- If you feel uncomfortable about a call you didn't initiate, hang up.
- Contact your friend or family member directly to confirm the caller's story.
Tech support scams
A scammer posing as technical support representative calls to claim there is an issue with your computer – for example, that your software is outdated or that you need to confirm your identity – and asks for remote access to your computer to resolve the issue. Typically, the scammer will ask you to type a specific command to enable remote access. Once you provide this access, the scammer may require payment for technical assistance, install malicious software, change settings to leave your computer vulnerable, and/or steal your financial information.
What you can do
- Do not give control of your computer to a third party unless you initiated the call.
- If you are uncomfortable with a phone call you did not initiate, hang up. Then contact the company using legitimate sources such as phone numbers found on the company’s website.
- Do not purchase any software or services from an unsolicited call or email.
- Do not provide your personal or financial information, including your online banking password, to anyone claiming to be technical support.
A type of malicious software downloaded to your computer designed to block access to your operating system and all the information stored on your PC until you pay a sum of money to a cyber criminal.
What you can do
- Keep your anti-virus software and firewall current and update all security patches regularly.
- Back up your data regularly by syncing your files to a secure external drive.
- Enable pop-up blockers since pop-up windows can be an entry point for ransomware.
- Don’t click on links, open attachments, or provide sensitive information through a suspicious-looking email or text message.
Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and account details by posing as a reputable company via email, text message, phone call, or social media. Once obtained, your personal and financial information can be used to access your account and steal money.
Scammers hope to convince victims to reveal their information by using compelling language, such as a need to communicate with you for your own safety or account security.
Types of phishing
Email: Traditional phishing is usually a two-part scam involving email and may contain links to a fraudulent website that appears legitimate, but is actually a hoax designed to capture your personal or financial information.
Text message: A phishing attempt via text message to a mobile device to convince recipients to share sensitive information through a reply or link to a fraudulent website.
Telephone or voice: A phishing attempt made through a telephone call or voice message. Scammers have the ability to spoof caller ID so it appears that the call is coming from a legitimate company. They may also have some of your information to make the call sound more authentic.
Social media: A fraudulent social media account impersonates a reputable company by using the company’s name and logo. These accounts may link to fraudulent websites that request your sensitive information.
What you can do
- Use caution if you receive an email or text expressing an urgent need for you to update your information, activate your online banking account, or verify your identity by clicking on a link.
- If you receive an email or text message requesting sensitive information, do not respond, and delete it.
- Learn how email service providers identify and flag authentic emails: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call requesting your information or access to your account, hang up and contact the company using a legitimate source such as a phone number on the company’s website.
- Learn how to recognize a suspicious email.
How to report phishing
- If you receive a suspicious email or text message that appears to be from Wells Fargo and you:
- Did respond by clicking on a link, opening an attachment or providing personal information, call us immediately at 1-866-867-5568.
- Did not respond, forward the email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from Wells Fargo, call us immediately at 1-800-869-3557.
- If you suspect a social media account is impersonating Wells Fargo, do not click links or provide sensitive information. Send suspicious links to email@example.com or tweet us at @Ask_WellsFargo.
Lottery or sweepstakes
You receive a phone call, email, or letter stating you have won a lottery or sweepstakes. Scammers require you to pay a fee to receive the prize to avoid taxes or additional fees, or may even threaten to report you to the IRS or police if you do not make the requested payment.
Tip: Legitimate lotteries pay taxes directly to the government rather than being reimbursed from winners’ proceeds. It is also against U.S. law to play a foreign lottery.
You meet a romantic interest on an online dating site, social network, or chat room. Scammers use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually request you send money due to a hardship.
Tip: Do not give personal information, account numbers, or credit card information to someone you recently met online.
You see a post about making easy money. Scammers ask for your debit card and PIN and/or mobile banking username and password to deposit a fake check into your account. They may ask you to report your card lost or stolen or that your credentials have been compromised in order to seek reimbursement from the bank. In exchange, scammers promise you a portion of the funds you deposit.
Tip: It is illegal to knowingly deposit bad checks and can result in fines and criminal charges.
A stranger in need
Someone you do not know well asks you to deposit a check into your account, withdraw the money, and give them the cash. In return, the scammer offers to compensate you.
Tip: Keep in mind, you will be responsible for the full amount of the check and associated fees if the check bounces. Also, depositing fraudulent checks can cause your account to be closed, and may also negatively impact your credit report.
You receive a call or a letter asking for donations to a charitable organization. The "organization" may claim to benefit police, firefighters, veterans, military families, natural disaster victims, someone fighting an illness, or other recipient.
Tip: Visit the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to research the charity. Note the charity’s name – many charity scams use names similar to those of legitimate organizations.
Work from home or mystery shopping jobs
This scam may come in the form of ads, fliers, or emails that promise income for home-based or mystery-shopping work. The "employer" may send a check with your first month’s salary or a check to purchase supplies, asking you to deposit the check and wire a portion of the money to cover the cost of your "one-time certification" or other fee. If the check is found to be fraudulent, you will be responsible for the full amount of the check and associated fees.
Tip: No legitimate work-from-home or mystery-shopping company sends its workers money in advance and asks them to send a portion to a third party via wire transfer or any other means.
What you should know:
In each of these situations, scammers may contact potential victims through email, telephone, websites, pop-up ads, or social media sites. Though the scams differ, they all have the same objective: to convince victims to send money or allow access to their financial accounts.
There are many ways for scammers to steal funds. Read about the most common methods below:
Wire transfer: A wire transfer is an immediate form of payment. Once a scammer has obtained the funds you wired in exchange for a check, the wire transfer cannot be reversed, even if the check is fraudulent.
Money transfer: Scammers convince you to send the funds through online banking or other money transfer services, such as ExpressSend®. Scammers may also obtain your online credentials and move the money themselves.
Check: Scammers may ask you to cash or deposit a bad check on their behalf and transfer the funds to their account before the check has cleared. Note: You are responsible for the full amount of the check you deposited and associated check fees if it bounces. It may typically take up to 10 business days for a check to be discovered as fraudulent and returned to your bank. (This varies by state and can take a few years.)
Credit card: Scammers may use your credit card number to make unauthorized purchases.
What you can do:
- Be wary of get-rich-quick schemes. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Avoid sending money to anyone you do not know or cannot verify as a legitimate company.
- Do not give your bank account information to individuals and organizations if you are unable to confirm the request is legitimate.
- Be suspicious if someone requests your account information or assistance with a financial transaction, such as cashing a check on their behalf or transferring money for them.