Got concerns about the ongoing federal government shutdown? Join the club. Every now and then you get another reminder that things aren’t working exactly as they should. For example, a lot of the government websites we use for information are down at the moment, which is a major annoyance. And of course we’re all wondering, “how will it affect me financially if this keeps dragging on?”
Naturally, people are getting a bit jumpy. Scammers are masters at taking advantage of situations like this. BBB warns consumers to be on the alert for scams using fear and uncertainty over the shutdown to victimize people.
KEYE-TV recently reported on an Austin man who got a call from an IRS impersonator who demanded a $12,000 payment of back taxes, which because of the government shutdown had to be made within two hours via wire payment or the man would be arrested.
Another scam reported by Public Radio Tulsa in Oklahoma targets elderly people and frightens them, saying their Social Security is about to be cut off because of the shutdown. The scammers then try to get the victim’s banking information.
Both of those scams involve common themes: phishing and wire fraud.
In order to avoid falling victim, BBB offers the following advice:
- Never reply to unsolicited phone messages or click links provided in an email asking for your personal information. Even if the email or phone call appears to be from a trusted source, it could be an attempt to get your personal information or download malware to your computer. Hang up the phone or delete the email immediately.
- Verify the information. If you’re worried about your credit card or bank account, call or email the company using contact information you found independently. Never call a number left in an unsolicited phone or email message.
- Demand proof. If a caller is claiming you owe a debt, ask questions. The caller should identify who they are, what company they represent and, upon request, provide written proof you incurred the debt.
- Avoid providing personal information. Do not provide or confirm any bank account, social security number, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have confirmed the legitimacy of the call.
- Report all suspicious behavior. File a complaint with BBB or the Texas Attorney General’s Office if the caller is abusive or uses threats.