What Are Tax Scams?
Indiana phone scams involve fraudulent activities executed over the phone with the intent to extort money from unsuspecting state residents or cajole them into divulging personal or financial information. Usually, phone scammers hide their true identities and impersonate employees of government agencies and reputable organizations. Phone scammers mostly use live calls, pre-recorded robocalls, and text messages to carry out their schemes. Persons that receive suspected spam calls can use phone lookup services on private websites and mobile applications to verify the call’s source.
With the rising rate of phone scams in Indiana, the Attorney General's Office has provided a Fraud Alert Program for Hoosiers to stay informed of the latest scams in the state. Interested persons can sign up to receive fraud alerts by email or text message. This program serves as a warning system. Persons that sign up to receive these alerts will be updated with information on frauds that may pose a threat to Hoosiers and links to tips on how to avoid the scams as well as what to do if they fall victim.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division synchronizes its efforts with that of other agencies in order to get updates on the scams occurring in other states. This will enable the Division to provide prompt notice of potential threats to Hoosiers. These agencies include:
- Federal Trade Commission;
- National Association of Attorneys General;
- Better Business Bureau; and other consumer protection agencies
Also, Hoosiers are encouraged to register their telephone numbers online on the state’s Do Not Call List or by calling 1.888.834.9969 during office hours. The Fishers Police Department, Indiana, provides a List of Current Scams in the state to keep Hoosiers informed about the types of scams in the state and how they are perpetrated. The department also advises that the best way to avoid a phone scam is to hang up. Common phones scams in Indiana include:
- Jury Duty Scam: The caller claims to be from the court system and deceives the recipient, saying that the recipient missed a call for jury duty and that the Sheriff or a police officer will come and arrest them. The caller then instructs that the recipient to purchase one or more prepaid cards and read out the numbers to them to avoid an arrest.
- “You’ve Won” Scam: Here, the caller tells the recipient that they have won a lottery or a prize, but they will need to pay certain fees to claim the lottery. These scammers mostly claim that the fees are required to cover taxes and other costs to facilitate the prize’s delivery.
- Fake Charity Scam: Charity scammers impersonate genuine charity organizations and deceive individuals by making them believe they are donating to a worthy cause. They mostly request that the recipient donates using a credit card. After which, they collect their credit card numbers and charge it to the limit. To confirm if it is a scam, request that they send you literature about the charity organization and then take your time to decide whether you wish to donate and how much you want to donate.
- Medicare Scam: Here, a scammer calls, claiming to be from Medicare calls saying they need the recipient’s number to issue them a new card or some other reason. Once they get the recipient’s Medicare number, they begin filing fraudulent medical charges against the recipient’s number and defrauding the Medicare system.
- Grandkid Scam: Mostly targets grandparents; the caller makes up an emergency and claims to be the recipient’s grandchild.
- Inheritance Scam: Here, the scammer calls and claims to be an attorney or banker, informing the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a large sum of money from a distant relative. The scammer may provide the recipient with convincing documents, but the goal is to scam the recipient.
Fraudulent persons take advantage of the tax season and extort money from unsuspecting state residents. These persons call residents and claim to be from the IRS. They make the recipient believe that they owe back taxes, and if they do not promptly go and purchase Green Dot cards or iTunes cards, they will be arrested by the IRS. Hoosiers must be informed that the IRS will never call and demand immediate payment over the phone or receive payment via Green Dot, iTunes, and MoneyGram cards.
If these scammers contact you by email, ignore the email or delete it and never click on any link in the email. The link could install malicious software on a victim’s computer. This software allows the perpetrator of the scam to gain access to everything on the victim’s computer. Residents that owe Federal taxes may call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to get a payment plan. Persons who receive such calls and do not owe taxes can visit the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration website and fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form or call TIGTA 1-800-366-4484. Victims may also file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission..
What Are Credit Card Scams?
Credit card fraud scam has become prevalent in recent times. Here, the target receives a call from a 1-800 number identical to the 1-800 number on the back of the target’s credit card. Scammers can spoof their phone numbers and cause them to look like any number they want. The scammer claims to be from the recipient’s credit card company’s fraud department and informs the target that their credit card has been compromised. The scammer then offers to cancel the target’s card and set up a replacement credit card. The fake agent may request personal and financial information to facilitate this process. Persons who find themselves in situations like this should hang up immediately. To verify the call’s authenticity, call the number on the back of your credit card and request to speak with the fraud department. The fraud department will help verify if there is truly a problem and resolve it if there is any.
What Are Social Security Scams?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a warning about the social security scam, which involves fraudsters spoofing their numbers to appear as 1-800-772-1213, the SSA’s national service number. These fraudsters call unsuspecting residents, telling them that the SSA does not have their personal information, such as the recipient’s Social Security Number on file. The caller will then say that they need additional information to increase the recipient’s monthly benefit. They may also threaten to terminate the recipient’s benefits if they do not provide answers to their questions. Hoosiers should note that the SSA never calls citizens for customer service purposes. Cases like this can be reported to the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online.
What Are Computer Repair Scams?
In a computer repair scam, residents receive calls from scammers claiming to be from Microsoft or any other reputable computer company. The caller deceives the recipient by saying that the recipient’s computer has tech issues and they can fix it remotely. The caller then requests that the recipient gives them their credit card number and grant them access to their computer. On receiving access to the computer, they secretly install software that gives them access to everything on the recipient’s computer. After which, they drain the recipient’s bank accounts and incur charges on all their credit cards. A scammer can also lock a target’s computer and deny them access until the victim pays a ransom.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
- Signup to receive up-to-date information on phone scams in the state - The Fraud Alert Program helps Hoosiers stay informed of the state’s latest scams to avoid falling victim.
- Be informed - Know that phone scammers target almost everyone in the state. Be conscious of this fact when receiving phone calls, even from numbers you are familiar with. You may also confirm the caller’s ID by using a phone lookup service.
- Never divulge personal and financial information to a caller over the phone - Know that banks, utility companies, and other reputable organizations never request a client’s personal and financial information over the phone.
- Never make immediate purchase decisions or accept offers over the phone - Always allow time to think about it and do proper research on the company’s consumer satisfaction history to avoid falling victim to a scam. Most telemarketers who want you to pay with a check-by-phone or money wire transfer over the phone are scammers.
- Register on the Do Not Call Registry - Registering a phone number on Indiana Do Not Call List and the National Do Not Call Registry helps restrict telemarketing calls and calls from other unsolicited sources. This, in turn, reduces the risk of falling victim to a phone scam.
- File a complaint when suspicious calls are received - Promptly reach out to the Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-382-5516 or 317-232-6330 whenever a scam is suspected.
- Avoid answering robocalls - Most robocalls have fraudulent intentions, avoid them, and, if unknowingly answered, hang up as soon you realize what they are. Also, do not follow the instructions given during the call.
- Hang up the call when the caller refuses to reveal their identity - Do not hesitate to ask more questions if unsatisfied with the caller’s introduction.
- Avoid connecting to free unprotected Wi-Fi in public places - Fraudsters use unprotected Wi-Fi in public places to steal personal information from unsuspecting users.
- Use a phone lookup service or reverse phone number search to look up suspected telephone numbers.