Category Archives: Crimes Against Seniors

How to Tell a Fake IRS Agent From a Real One

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

For years we’ve been warning you about phony IRS agents who call, trying to convince you that you owe back taxes. To help you spot these scammers, we told you that the IRS won’t contact you by phone.

But starting this month, Congress is requiring the IRS to hire private debt collectors. Four legitimate debt collection companies will be contacting taxpayers by phone.

So how can you tell if the person on the phone is an IRS scammer, or someone who really is calling on behalf of the U.S. Government? Here are some tips:

  • Before your debt is turned over to a private debt collector, the IRS will send you multiple letters. Unless there is a problem with your mail delivery, you should receive them before a private debt collector calls. If you haven’t, the person on the line is probably a scammer.
  • If the caller threatens you with a lawsuit, arrest, or physical harm, or demands immediate payment over the phone, it’s a scammer.
  • If the initial contact with you about your alleged debt is by text, email, or social media, it’s a scammer.
  • A debt collector working for the government will require your payment to be made at IRS.gov, or via a check made out to the U.S. Treasury that is mailed directly to the IRS. If they want you to pay your debt any other way, including prepaid debit, iTunes or gift cards, it’s a scammer.

Jury Duty Scammers Still Working the Phones

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

North Carolinians continue to receive calls from phony sheriff’s deputies who claim they skipped jury duty and a subsequent court date. The caller says a warrant has been issued for your arrest, or soon will be, but you can pay a fine now and avoid being arrested.

These con artists are trying to exploit your fear of getting on the wrong side of the law, and hoping they can squeeze money out of you before you realize it’s a scam. The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has received dozens of reports about jury duty scams so far this year, and six people have fallen victim. Victims of the jury duty scam report losses of about $1,000 each.

All of the victims were instructed to use Green Dot Money Pak cards as their method of payment. These prepaid debit cards, and gift cards like iTunes cards, have become scammers’ preferred way of getting their hands on your money. This is true of IRS scams as well as many others.

To protect yourself, remember:

  • Real notices for jury duty arrive by mail.
  • Legitimate public officials won’t call to threaten you with arrest if you don’t show up for jury duty or fail to pay a fine immediately.
  • Hang up on jury duty scammers and other crooks who try to trick you out of your hard-earned money.
  • If someone tries to get you to use a prepaid debit card or a gift card to pay money they say you owe them, you are almost certainly being scammed.
  • If you get one of these calls, report it to your local police department and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or completing the form online at www.ncdoj.gov.

New Twist On IRS Scam

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

Many consumers have received the call. A recorded message from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service or Treasury Department threatens arrest if back taxes are not paid immediately. If you return the call you’ll be instructed to use a money order, wire transfer or prepaid debit card, perhaps even an iTunes gift card, to send your payment. Sometimes the scam message is delivered by email instead of by phone.

Now the scammers are searching for potential victims via a new route: texts. The message begins “WARNING: Criminal Investigation Unit of the I.R.S. is filing lawsuit against you…”. It includes a phone number to call for more information, and continues “This is your last chance… arrest warrant will be forwarded to local police…”.

Regardless of which method scammers use to try to scare you into paying money you don’t owe, remember: government agencies like the I.R.S. would never threaten you with immediate arrest, or demand that you make payment using iTunes gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers.

If you are contacted by an IRS scammer, you can report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online. If you think you may have been a victim of an IRS scammer, file a report with the real I.R.S.

Don’t say “Yes” – Just hang up

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

Sometimes all a crook needs from you is one word – “Yes.” With a tape recording of your voice saying it, a scammer can add charges to your phone bill or take other actions to steal your money. And when you protest that you never authorized the charges, that “yes” can make it harder to get the charges removed.

The Attorney General’s Office has recently been contacted by consumers who heard “Can you hear me?” or “Is this the lady of the house?” when they answered the phone. These calls are designed to elicit “yes” as an answer. Some of the calls are actually recordings and some may be disguised as solicitations for vacation cruises or other items. Armed with their recording of the consumer’s response, these crooks “cram” charges onto the victim’s phone or credit card bill. Authorities in Pennsylvania and Virginia have also recently warned about these tactics.

To protect yourself against these scammers, remember:

  • Let it ring. The best and easiest way to combat telemarketing fraudsters is to let unknown calls go to your answering machine. If a caller doesn’t leave a message, it was a crook or an unimportant call that was OK to miss.
  • Just hang up. If you pick up the phone and a voice says “Can you hear me?” or something else that is designed to get you to respond with a “yes,” just put the phone back down. It’s rude… but so is trying to steal your money.
  • You can’t trust Caller ID. Scam artists can manipulate it to make it look like a legitimate call when it isn’t. If you’re unsure about a call, let them leave a message.
  • Study your bill. Check your phone charges and credit card statements carefully. If you see a charge you don’t recognize, contact the company and dispute the charge.

If you need help with an unauthorized charge on a bill, contact us for help or call us toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

W-2 Scam Threatens Employers, Employees

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

A dangerous scam is now spreading from businesses to other types of employers. In the scam, a worker in the human resources or payroll department receives an email from the CEO or a top executive. The message requests W-2s or other private information about the organization’s employees. But it is a phishing email, a convincing-looking fake, and the confidential information is delivered into the hands of crooks. The IRS has just issued a warning to all employers about this scam.

In North Carolina, phishermen are hauling in record-breaking catches. Back in 2015, six data breaches in the state were blamed on phishing and a total of 156 consumers were affected. In 2016 that number ballooned to 209 data breaches, with more than 19 thousand North Carolinians impacted. The Attorney General’s Office has received reports of 18 W-2 phishing breaches since the beginning of 2017, with 10 of those reports coming in the last week.

To avoid falling for a fraudulent email seeking money or personal information:

  • Verify that the message is authentic. This can be as simple as picking up the phone to confirm that the person named in the email actually sent the message.
  • Set a strict policy for wire transfers and disclosure of employee information. For example, require that such requests cannot be made solely by email or must be confirmed by telephone.
  • Warn employees about email scams and encourage them to report fraudulent emails they get.

Businesses, organizations and private citizens can report email scams to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by filing a consumer complaint online or calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina. Consumers who are victims of a security breach can also get tips on steps to take to minimize the damage at ncdoj.gov.

Protect Yourself Online

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

As your Attorney General, protecting North Carolinians is my most important priority.

Here are a few tips about how you can protect yourself:

  • Be sure you know who you’re dealing with before you share your personal information, especially your social security number. Many crooks will pose as banks, businesses or even government officials to try to get your money. If you get a call or email that feels suspicious, contact the organization directly to check up.
  • Keep your accounts from getting hacked by using two-step approvals or log-in approvals.
  • Take advantage of privacy settings on the websites you use to make sure your data is being used in the ways you want.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts and change them frequently.

For more information, click here to see a video message from me outlining more tips, or visit www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day.

If you think you may have been the victim of a scam or experienced a data breach, please contact my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online.

Utility Scammers Up Their Game

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

In this scam, crooks pretend to represent an electric or gas utility company. They threaten to cut off your utility service unless allegedly overdue bills are paid immediately. And they’re at it again, calling individuals and businesses across North Carolina.

Now they’re taking extra steps to convince you that their call is legitimate by manipulating Caller ID (to make it look like they really are calling from Duke Energy), by transferring you to speak to a “supervisor” during the call, and even by playing music for you while you’re on hold.

Victims are sometimes instructed to send their payment by wire. But increasingly they’re told to deposit money into a specific account, or to put funds on a prepaid debit card or gift card and then call back to provide the card number.

Most people see through the scam, but some don’t. An eastern North Carolina homeowner lost more than $500 recently while a Charlotte resident lost almost $2,000, both via gift cards. A small business in the Triangle area sent more than $1,000 by wire, and another lost $2,200 via prepaid cards.

If you get a call threatening to cut off your power if you don’t pay:

  • Don’t send or transfer any money to the callers.
  • If you believe you may really owe money on your utility bill, hang up and call your utility directly, using a phone number from a recent bill or the company’s website.
  • Remember that real utility companies won’t use these methods to try to collect overdue accounts or cut off your service on such short notice.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a utility cut-off scam, call our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free in NC or by file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.