If you get a call from someone saying you failed to show up for jury duty, beware: it’s a scam. The same goes for calls from the IRS saying you owe taxes, and maybe even fake calls for help from family.
AARP’s Fraud Network is getting the word out about some of the most common scams Americans may encounter in 2015. Many of these scams are familiar from previous years, but people still need to be on the alert. Fraudsters continue to work the same angles, as long as they are successful some of the time. Here are four ongoing scams to watch out for this year:
IRS Scam:From January through April 15, people’s minds turn to taxes—and scammers use that time to take advantage. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS official and saying you owe money, remember that the IRS doesn’t make phone calls like this. They send paper mail notices to initiate any collections or other actions. Scammers can rig caller ID to make it appear that the call is coming from the Internal Revenue Service, but don’t be fooled. They may make follow-up calls, threaten to arrest you, revoke your business license, or deport you if you aren’t a citizen. Ignore these calls. If you are concerned about whether you do owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov to get in touch with an official IRS worker.
Tech Support Scam: Someone calls you, claiming to be from Microsoft, Windows, Apple or another tech company. They may tell you your computer is infected with a virus, or that your network is sending out signals. They’ll try to get you to download software or let their technicians access your computer. This scam can play out a couple of ways: they may charge you for their help, or they may install malware on your computer that allows them to access your personal information, including bank and credit card info. If you’re worried you’ve been a victim of this crime, use secure virus scanning software to check your computer for malware. Change your passwords on your computer, and if necessary, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
Jury Duty Scam: Again, this starts with a phone call. This time someone will claim to be a court officer and tell you you failed to report for jury duty. When you say you didn’t receive a notice, the caller will ask for some personal information to verify that you didn’t get the summons. This might include your birthdate, Social Security number, and possibly a credit card number. Caught off guard and fearing arrest, people often provide this information. Hang up the phone and file a police report. Court officers will send a letter, not call you on the phone, and they will never ask for personal information over the telephone.
Grandparent Scam: This scam gets people where they are most vulnerable. You may be a grandparent, but this ruse can be pulled on anyone with a loved one or family member they would be eager to help. Someone will call and tell you that a person close to you is in trouble and needs some emergency cash. It may be for transportation to get home from another country, medical care, or bail. They will ask you to wire money immediately. Don’t do it. If you have reason to believe the call could be legitimate, get the person’s contact info so you can call back after you’ve independently verified the whereabouts of the loved one in question. Do not provide any personal information or send any money. Once you’ve made certain this was a fraudulent phone call, contact the local Attorney General’s Office (naag.org) to report the crime.
AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network in 2014, providing consumers with tools and resources to identify scams and prevent identity theft.