7 Tips to Protect Yourself from Phone Scammers

September 04, 2017

Across the country, phone scammers continue to steal millions of dollars from individual taxpayers. Typically, the thieves pose as IRS officials who harass their victims into making payments and divulging personal information that can be used for identity theft. In fact, the scam – which has “targeted 300,000 people” according to WFAA in Dallas – is so serious that the IRS has even developed a dedicated website for reporting such calls.“The key thing for taxpayers to remember is one simple fact: the IRS will never contact you by email or phone to request sensitive personal information,” says Matt Kidder, a Licensed Private Investigator with Kroll, the global risk mitigation leader that powers IDShield. “And they will certainly never threaten you with immediate arrest, demand payment via a pre-paid debit card, or ask for credit card numbers over the phone.”Thieves have also been known to use similar tactics to steal credit card numbers, frequently by using robo-calls that state that your debit card or credit card has been locked. The automated messages then prompt you to enter your credit card number and information to unlock your card. These scams – sometimes referred to as ‘vishing,’ since they are phishing attempts that occur via telephone voice messaging systems – prompt you to surrender private information that will be used for fraud. Much like all scam calls, they may carry dire threats or too-good-to-be-true opportunities.”“Never provide your card number or any other personally identifiable information over the phone unless you are the one who made the call,” says Kroll’s Kidder.Some automated calls are perfectly legal, such as calls from candidates running for office, legitimate charities asking for donations, or reminders from businesses with which you have a relationship such as your bank or healthcare provider. However, be wary of sales-related automated calls from companies that you have not given consent to receive. Many of these calls are scam-related, according to Kidder.“Most scammers try to heighten the recipient’s sense of urgency by either stating they will lose access to something valuable like a bank account or credit cards if they don’t respond quickly, or they will gain a benefit like a free grant from the government if they provide personal details to activate it,” says Kidder. “The caller will ask you for personal or financial information, they will ask you to wire money to them for any reason, and if you refuse their request the caller will begin to make threats against you such as arrest, lawsuits, etc.”If you get an automated call/voice or text message, remember the following advice:1. Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers often have the capability to mask their call information, which is known as spoofing.2. Don’t share your personally identifiable information (PII). If you are already doing business with the company represented, they should already have all of your information.3. Don’t react too quickly. It’s very important to remain calm, even if you think you are about to lose a service or if you think a punitive action is about to be taken.4. DO NOT press one or wait on the line for a live person – these scam operations do not acknowledge the Do Not Call list and your response may lead to more scam calls.5. DO NOT call back the number provided or click on any website hyperlinks. Instead, independently verify that the message was sent by a legitimate source by visiting the company website, calling customer service directly, or some other form of contact, as long as it is initiated by you.6. Your service provider may be able to block the incoming telephone number, but keep in mind there are limitations to this service – scammers frequently use multiple numbers, and there are many telephone scams running at any given time.7. You should report your experience to the FTC directly on their website. For scams involving the IRS, you should also use the IRS’ own form here.Overall, Kidder’s advice is simple: “If you find yourself in any of these situations, DO NOT release any personally identifiable information; hang up.”To learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from identity theft, visit