top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrian A. Raphan, Esq.

How to Spot a Holiday Phone Scam

Updated: Jul 12


Woman on the phone in kitchen

The following information comes from The FTC--Federal Trade Commision. They are the only federal agency that deals with consumer protection and competition issues in broad sectors of the economy.  Their mission is protecting the public from deceptive or unfair business practices and from unfair methods of competition through law enforcement, advocacy, research, and education.



Four Signs That It’s a Scam


1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the FTC, Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.

They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.


2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.


4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you can only pay by using cryptocurrencywiring money through a company like MoneyGram or Western Union, using a payment app, or putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card.

Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), then tell you to deposit it and send them money.



How To Avoid a Scam


Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists that you can only pay with cryptocurrencya wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, a payment app, or a gift card. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.


Learn more from The FTC about Phishing Scams here>


Additionally, the IRS recently held a Security Summit and offers this advice for Holiday & Tax Season:


The Security Summit reminds everyone to stay safe during both the holiday and tax season with the following tips that can help protect themselves while online and in other settings:


  • Shop at sites where the web address begins with "https" – the "s" is for secure communications and look for the padlock icon in the browser window.

  • Don't shop on unsecured public Wi-Fi in places like a mall or restaurant.

  • Keep security software for computers, tablets and mobile phones updated.

  • Protect the devices of family members, including young children, older adults as well as less technologically savvy users.

  • Make sure anti-virus software for computers has a feature to stop malware, and that there is a firewall enabled that can prevent intrusions.

  • Use strong and unique passwords for online accounts.

  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. It helps prevent thieves from easily hacking accounts. The IRS also reminds the tax community that the Federal Trade Commission this summer updated their standards and now requires tax professionals to use multi-factor authentication to protect information.


Comments


bottom of page