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Sheriff's Office offer tips on how to protect yourself from phone scams

Sheriff's Office offer tips on how to protect yourself from phone scams DouglasNow.com file photo

The Coffee County Sheriff's Office generally receives multiple reports daily from citizens regarding suspected telephone scams.

The simplest way to minimize your exposure to scam calls is to monitor your incoming calls carefully. Start by not picking up calls from unknown numbers. If the information is important or urgent, callers will probably leave a voicemail or find another way to contact you.

You could also Google the number, as other people may have logged complaints in online communities like 800Notes, Caller Complaints, and WhoCalledUs.

Here is some detailed information on some common scams, including what to watch out for to prevent becoming a victim.

IRS Phone Scams

The IRS routinely hears from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment.

That is not how the IRS operates. The IRS:

- Never asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the telephone;

- Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations; and

- Never requests immediate payment over the telephone. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they're entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, phone scammers sometimes call back trying new strategies.

Fraudsters have convincing methods of persuading people that they're legitimate IRS agents, including:

- Using fake names (often common names and surnames) and IRS badge numbers;

- Reciting the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number;

- Spoofing the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling;

- Sending bogus IRS e-mails to victims to support their bogus calls; and

- Following up with bogus calls from someone pretending to be the local police or DMV to support threats of jail time or driver's license revocation.

- Victims may even hear background noise that mimics a call site.

Response. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:

If you know you owe taxes or you think you might, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is one.

If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do (for example, you've never received a bill, or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.

If you've been targeted by an IRS-related scam, you can also use the Federal Trade Commission's online "FTC Complaint Assistant." Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and e-mail scams that use the tax agency as a lure. The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also doesn't ask for your personal identification number, password, or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank, or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box

If you've noticed an increase in unsolicited phone calls -- even though you're on the Do Not Call registry -- you're not alone. The FTC and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warn that these calls may appear to come from a local business, your bank, a neighbor or even from yourself. The point is to get you to pick up the phone.

It's known as caller ID "spoofing" technology, and scam artists use it to impersonate other callers. The variety of scam calls seems never-ending. Some connect you to a live person on the other end, while others start with a recording, also known as a "robocall."

Either way, you probably didn't win a prize. If the caller offers to lower the interest rate on your credit card if you verify your credit card number, take the advice of the FTC -- just hang up. In addition:

Don't press any buttons. The caller may instruct you to press a button to speak to an agent, be removed from the call list, or register a complaint. As tempting as that might be, by pressing a button, you might actually be agreeing to something.

Look up numbers yourself. Even if you think the call might have a legitimate purpose, such as a problem with your bank account, it's still safer to hang up. Then, use your account statement to find a number directly. Call the bank and explain what happened. They'll be able to tell you if the call was legitimate.

Reveal nothing. Never give out personal financial information. If you didn't initiate the call, don't provide bank account or credit card numbers, your Social Security number, or even your birth date or age.

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