BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin has been getting a lot of calls about two particular scams this week: The “grandparent scam” and the fake IRS agent scam.
In the grandparent scam, someone impersonating law enforcement or a court official, is calling senior citizens claiming that their grandchild is in jail. Sometimes they put the “grandchild” on the line, but it’s hard to hear or understand the supposed grandchild’s voice. The “official” demands money to get the grandchild out of jail, usually by wiring money or through a pre-paid debit card.
(In July, we wrote about a Midland man who got burned by this particular scam.)
BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Don’t let a potential scammer push you into sending money before you verify the situation.
- Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
- Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
- Don’t wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, or for an emergency you haven’t verified is real.
- Stay private. Check your privacy settings on all your social media sites. Scammers often make their stories more believable by trolling for information on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites.
- Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.
Your BBB has written about this type of scam before, but we’ve been getting a lot of calls about it this week. Scammers are telling people they owe the IRS money, which must be paid immediately. Usually they get consumers to pay with a pre-loaded debit card or by wiring money. The money goes to criminals, not the IRS. If that happens to you, make sure you’re dealing with a real IRS agent and never wire money to scammers.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, you should do the following:
- If you know or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and speak with a real IRS employee.
- If you know you don’t think you owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
- You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.