Jayne Hitchcock here – I got my husband a police scanner the other day and noticed a lot of citizens were calling their police departments about a prevalent scam these days. They were getting phone calls from someone claiming to be with the IRS and if they didn’t pay a certain amount of money (anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars) they would be arrested. Well, that scam has hit Maine.
The scammer sounds threatening and demands payment be made via Western Union or a Green Dot MoneyPak Card (purchased from Wal Mart). One person duped by this actually paid $14,000 before realizing it was a scam.
I honestly don’t know why people are still falling for scams like this one. If there was a problem with your tax return or if you really did owe money, the IRS would not call you, they would mail you letter detailing what is owed. Also, you would never be asked to pay via wire or a card – that really should have raised a red flag for victims. It’s a shame people lose money from scams like this. Even if the perpetrators are caught, it is highly unlikely the victim will ever see the money they lost.
This is similar to the Microsoft Windows scam – you would either get a phone call or a window would pop up on your computer screen claiming there was a problem with your version of Windows. They would then ask to remotely control your computer (GIANT red flag right there). If you did that, they would infect your computer with a virus, then demand money to remove it. This actually happened to a friend’s wife. Luckily, I was on the phone with her while she was on her cell phone with the scammer. I told her just to hang up. She was being way too polite. She told me afterwards her computer had been acting very slow of late. I gave her the number of a local computer repair guy who is a friend of mine and told her to never, ever respond to any demands for money or remotely controlling her computer and to call me if anything like that happened again.
How do these scammers get your phone number? Two ways: 1. They scour White Pages listings online and call all listed numbers 2. They Google “cell phone numbers” and if your cell number is somewhere online, they’ll get it and call you.
To lessen the chance of getting a scam call, either change your number to an unpublished one or switch it to unpublished and notify any white pages search engines to remove your listing. If you don’t make your number unpublished, the white pages search engines will add it again when they update their site every year. Don’t post your cell or phone number anywhere online. I use a free voicemail service at j2.com. The reason it’s free is it is not in your area code. I get any voicemails or faxes sent to my email inbox. I use this number pretty much everywhere I can online and put it on my business cards. If you do want to have the number in your area code, there is a small monthly fee you need to pay.
Microsoft won’t call you. The IRS won’t call you. Mark Zuckerberg surely won’t call you. My advice is to not even respond to the person and hang up. If they call back, block them on your smartphone or let the answering machine pick up if you don’t recognize the number (many scammers switch to a new phone number hoping you will still answer the phone).
But if you do want to have fun with them, you can do what this guy did: Man Records Fake Microsoft Call
Stay safe online, my friends.