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Bitcoin Scam Guide – Avoiding Theft and Fraud
By: Ofir Beigel | Last updated: 11/14/19
There are numerous ways to lose your Bitcoins – scams, fraud, and theft are getting more and more common these days. This post will describe how to keep your Bitcoins safe, plus give you some practical tools to use.
Bitcoin Scam Guide Summary
There are numerous types of Bitcoin scams out there. Here’s how to avoid them:
- Never expose your private key / seed phrase.
- Use the Bitcoin Scam Test before using any unknown service.
- Make sure you’re not logging into a phishing site (explained below).
- Have strong unique passwords to all related accounts.
- Enable 2FA on related accounts.
- Use a VPN or secure network to connect to your Bitcoin accounts.
That’s how to avoid scams in a nutshell. If you want a more detailed review about how to identify scams and avoid fraud or theft, keep on reading. Here’s what I’ll cover:
Don’t Like to Read? Watch Our Video Guide Instead
1. The Bitcoin Scam Test
Use this simple 12 question test to evaluate any unknown Bitcoin service or website. Some questions require a specific tool that are located on the right sidebar. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question you can choose to skip it (however the results will be less accurate).
Share the quiz to show your results !
2. Is Bitcoin Safe?
Bitcoin, the currency and the technology behind it, has proved to withstand numerous attacks throughout the years. The weakest link in Bitcoin’s security (as is the case with most other technologies) is usually the people who handle it.
Whenever you hear that Bitcoins were stolen, it wasn’t because there was a problem with Bitcoin’s technology, but because whoever was holding those Bitcoins wasn’t careful enough.
Saying Bitcoin isn’t safe because you hear a lot about stolen Bitcoins is like saying the dollar isn’t safe because you hear that there are a lot of robberies going on.
With great power comes great responsibility, and as long as you follow the steps in this post your Bitcoins will be safe and sound.
Before we get started, here is the most important rule you should remember:
You, and you alone, should know the private key to your Bitcoin wallet. The private key, or seed phrase, is like the combination to a safe. Whoever knows your wallet’s private key can take control of your Bitcoins.
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No website or person should ever ask you for your private key – just as no one should ask you for the number combination of your safe. So keep that in mind as a red flag if you ever hear that request.
3. What Should I Do if I Got Scammed?
Here are some of the options at your disposal:
- Share your experience in the comments section of this post so others can learn from it.
- Report the website or service to the relevant authority.
- Report the website on review sites like TrustPilot, BitTrust and BadBitcoin.
- Take legal action against the site or service – this might not be worth your time or money (depending on how much money was taken from you).
4. Bitcoin Scams and Fraud Examples
In Scams and frauds, attackers exploit the weakness of the human factor to put their hands on your Bitcoin. Usually this is done by the fraudster claiming to be someone or something he’s not. Here are some common scams and fraud schemes:
Nigerian prince scams
Similar to emails that popped up when the Internet was just gaining mass adoption. The emails were sent by a person claiming to be a Nigerian prince that wants to share his wealth with you. This is a general term for all email scams where people ask you to send them Bitcoin.
The reason they ask for Bitcoin is because:
- Bitcoin is somewhat anonymous.
- Bitcoin transactions can’t be reversed.
How to avoid – Don’t ever send Bitcoins to someone you don’t know, and when you do send Bitcoins to someone you know, double check that you’re actually speaking to who you think you’re speaking to.
Private Key Scams
This type of scam involves people accessing your wallet’s private key or seed phrase (i.e. the password to your funds). There are several ways this scam can take form:
- Persuading the user to send over his private key / seed
- Persuading the user to give remote access to his computer and getting the private key through that access (example). This is usually done by pretending to be someone respected in the community / someone that can help you with an issue.
- Sending you a private key to use in your own wallet and then stealing the funds from that wallet (example).
How to avoid – You should never share your private key or seed phrase with ANYONE, and you alone should be the one generating it.
These scams usually include sending a fake email to the user from a known service (e.g. Blockchain.com) telling him he needs to log into his account for some strange reason by clicking on an attached link.
When the user clicks the link in the email he’s brought to a phishing site – an identical site to the original, but with a different URL. The sole purpose of this site is logging the user’s username and password. Once the user tries to log in, he basically transmits his sensitive info to the scammer.
How to avoid – Always be suspicious of emails asking you to log into a specific service. Double check the “from” email address and the URL in the browser you’re taken to. Also, it’s best to always access sites directly from the browser and not from links.
Also, make sure the site uses SSL connection – this means you should see a “lock” icon in the beginning of the address bar and that the URL immediately after begins with “https” and not “http”. Most phishing sites don’t have an SSL certificate, although there may be exceptions.
Finally, most services that you sign-up with know your name and use it in their emails. So if you are addressed as “sir” or “dear customer” see that as a warning.
Oh…and never open any email attachments from unknown senders.
Cloud Mining and Ponzi Scams
A Ponzi Scheme is a scam promising high-rates of return with little risk. The Ponzi Scheme pays out the older investors by taking money from new investors. At some point, the Ponzi Scheme operator usually disappears with the investors’ money.
Most Bitcoin Ponzi Schemes today appear in the form of cloud mining sites or coin doublers. These are sites that will promise you high-rates of return on your coins on a daily basis and will disappear with your money, after a while.
How to avoid – Just use the Bitcoin Scam Test on this page before investing in anything.
5. My Personal Scam Story
A little over 2 weeks ago I received the following email:
At first glance, this seems to be a normal email blast sent out by Coindesk looking for advertisers. As you can see from the recipient line it was sent to the admin address of 99Bitcoins ([email protected]).
The thing is, we don’t have an admin address, it was just captured in our inbox since all email directed to 99bitcoins.com are captured.
Here’s what was suspicious about the email:
- The sender’s name – Shakil Khan. I knew who he was, he was the founder of Coindesk. Why would the founder of a huge publication be sending out cold marketing emails? Don’t they have at least a VP marketing or someone else not so high up?
- The email was sent from [email protected] – I assume that Coindesk would be sending out emails from their own domain name and not using a general Gmail address.
However, the advertising spots available were actually pretty convincing. First, the email stated specific daily impressions count.
Second, the date at which the banner will be available matched what was advertised at Coindesk. If you were to visit Coindesk at the time the email was sent you would see there was an ad there for Coinsummit that was set to expire on the 6th of July.
Finally, the Facebook URL was also pretty convincing – why would someone be starting a Facebook page that wasn’t their own? I mean if this was a scam this may lower their success rate.
After some back and forth with the (still unknown) scammer I was convinced that this is a good deal and was about to send my Bitcoins until I got the final response:
The grammar mistakes finally aroused my suspicion and I decided to send an email to a verified contact I had in Coindesk. I got the following response:
It seems that this specific email isn’t the only way these scammers try to cheat people out of their money. Some emails even have an actual Coindesk domain “from” address but if you look at the “reply to” address you see it’s the same Gmail address.
The final thing I found out was that the Facebook page mentioned in the original email was not the actual Coindesk FB page. It was a fake page pointing to COLNDESK – but if you don’t write the letter “L” in caps it looks like a capital “I”.
My alertness saved me from losing money in this case. But I think I’ve learned a much more valuable lesson – and that’s how easy it just became for scammers to take your money.
You see, until Bitcoin was introduced, scammers had to overcome complicated barriers when they wanted someone to send them money. They needed to persuade people to wire them the money or send a check.
This would require them to supply an address or a bank account, which could later easily lead to their capture. More than that, these actions require more effort and had a much lower success rate.
But with Bitcoin, cash just became digital, and scam success rates are rising because of it.
I think what I personally take from this story is to make sure I can positively verify the person that I’m sending money to, before actually sending it.
Here’s another example that’s been circling around, this time from the alleged “BitcoinTalk” forum. As you can see below, the same techniques are used here – a Gmail address, stating exact banner sizes, etc.
6. Bitcoin Theft
Unlike fraudsters, thieves steal Bitcoin by circumventing security measures to gain access to their victims’ funds. Online wallets and exchanges are the weakest links in terms of Bitcoin theft. The easiest way to avoid theft from these sites is not to keep any Bitcoins on them.
However, sometimes it’s inevitable to keep funds in an exchange or an online wallet. For example, if you want to trade frequently or if you’re using a certain wallet for online games.
If that’s the case, it’s important to secure your online Bitcoin accounts with a strong enough password.
Generating strong passwords
Here are some general rules for creating a strong password:
- The more characters the password has the better. Aim for at least 8 characters.
- Try to create a mix of lower and upper case letters and non traditional characters like exclamation marks, hyphens and so on.
- Don’t reuse passwords from other accounts.
Of course, the best passwords are the ones that are just a random string of text, numbers, and symbols, but they are also extremely hard to remember. That’s why I strongly recommend you get some sort of password manager to help you generate and keep track of your passwords.
Another way of remembering strong passwords is using numbers instead of certain letters as shown here:
Th!5 i5 a 5tR0ng Pa5sw0rd
These rules should be exercised each time you open a Bitcoin related account, choose a PIN code for your wallet or choose a passphrase for encrypting a file.
For example, if possible, choose a PIN code for your mobile wallet with 8 digits instead of the standard 4.
2 Factor Authentication (2FA)
Another very useful security measure you should use whenever possible is to enable Two-factor authentication for your accounts.
Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, is a method of confirming a user’s identity through two separate components. In most cases, it would be something a user has and something a user knows.
A good example for 2fa from everyday life is withdrawing money from an atm; only the correct combination of a bank card (something you have) and a PIN (something you know) allows the transaction to be carried out.
In the case of online accounts, something you know will be the password to the site and the something you have will be a mobile phone that will receive a text message containing a PIN code when you try to log in.
This way, even if a hacker manages to uncover your password he still can’t log in until he physically puts his hand on your mobile device.
HOWEVER, if you use a normal text message, a hacker can still manage to intercept the message as it’s being sent to your phone. That’s why it’s important to use dedicated 2FA apps that are much more suited for this task. Some of the more popular 2FA apps today are Google Authenticator and Authy.
Using trusted Networks
One thing we tend to forget is what network we are using to access online Bitcoin services like exchanges and wallets. Make sure to access sensitive information only on trusted networks that are properly secured.
For example, use your password-protected home or mobile network only and never use a public wi-fi network to access a Bitcoin service. Of course, the password for your router should also follow the rules we just talked about. Public wi-fi networks are extremely vulnerable and hackers can eavesdrop on your session.
If you have to use a public network, make sure to connect through a Virtual Private Network, also known as a VPN. VPNs are programs that hide your online footprint and encrypt your data, making life extremely hard for hackers.
Another very important security measure we already mentioned is to make sure the site you’re connecting to uses a secure SSL connection – this means you should see https:// and not http:// showing up in the address bar.
7. Additional Safety Tips
Whenever you’re sending money to an address, remember that Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. Once the money is sent, there’s no “insurance” and you can’t get it back. For this reason, make sure to always double check that the address you’re sending the money to is correct.
Never type the address in manually since Bitcoin addresses have a lot of characters and you may make a mistake. Either copy and paste the address or use the QR code of the address to scan it. If you send money to the wrong address, there’s no way to retrieve it.
Make sure you trust the person you’re sending money to. If you don’t trust them, you can always use a third party escrow service that you both agree on. One very popular escrow service is Bitrated where you can choose known figures from the Bitcoin community as arbitrators in case of a dispute.
Finally, if you’re conducting small amount transactions, one confirmation may be enough to send over the goods to a counterparty. But if you’re dealing with large amounts, wait for at least six confirmations in order to be sure that the transaction is irreversible.
As you can see there are numerous types of Bitcoin scams, and I’ve only covered the main ones. The important thing to remember is this: Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
So check as much as you need to make sure you’re sending money to someone you trust. Once the money is sent, there’s not much you can do about it.
Have you used the Bitcoin Scam Test? Have you been scammed or fell victim to a fraud? Let me know in the comment section below.
Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
More In News
Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam. See also: How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.
Scams Targeting Taxpayers
Taxpayers should be on the lookout for new version of SSN scam
In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. It’s yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. See IRS Tax Tip 2020-149.
Scams related to natural disasters
The IRS reminds taxpayers that criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims of major disasters.
Security Summit warns of new IRS impersonation email scam; reminds taxpayers the IRS does not send unsolicited emails
IR-2020-145, August 22, 2020 — The IRS and its Security Summit partners today warned taxpayers and tax professionals about a new IRS impersonation scam campaign spreading nationally on email. See IR-2020-145.
IRS reminder: Tax scams continue year-round
IR-2020-104, June 5, 2020 – Although the April filing deadline has passed, scam artists remain hard at work, and the IRS today urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a spring surge of evolving phishing emails and telephone scams. See IR-2020-104.
IRS warns of new phone scam using Taxpayer Advocate Service numbers
The IRS warns the public about a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. See IR-2020-44.
IRS: Don’t be victim to a ‘ghost’ tax return preparer
The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers. See IR-2020-09.
IRS warns of “Tax Transcript” email scam; dangers to business networks
The IRS and Security Summit partners today warned the public of a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware. See IR-2020-226.
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity. For details see the IRS video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service.
Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams. Note that the IRS doesn’t:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Scams Targeting Tax Professionals
Increasingly, tax professionals are being targeted by identity thieves. These criminals – many of them sophisticated, organized syndicates – are redoubling their efforts to gather personal data to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns. The Security Summit has a campaign aimed at tax professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself.
IRS, Security Summit partners warn tax professionals of fake payroll direct deposit and wire transfer emails
The IRS and its Security Summit partners warn tax professionals of an uptick in phishing emails targeting them that involve payroll direct deposit and wire transfer scams. These business email compromise/business email spoofing tactics generally target all types of industry and employers. See IR-2020-253.
Other recent scams targeting the tax professional community include:
- IRS warns tax pros of new scam posing as professional associations.
- Tax Professionals Urged to Step Up Security as Filing Scheme Emerges.
- Tax Professionals Warned of e-Services Scam.
- Tax Professionals Warned of New Scam to “Unlock” Tax Software Accounts.
- A phishing scheme mimicking software providers targets tax professionals.
- Criminals target tax professionals to steal data such as PTINs, EFINs or e-Service passwords.
- Bogus email asks tax professionals to update their IRS e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs).
- See: IRS Warns Tax Preparers to Watch out for New Phishing Scam; Don’t Click on Strange Emails or Links Seeking Updated Information
Tax professionals should review Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, A Guide for Your Business (PDF), which provides a checklist to help safeguard information and enhance security.
Soliciting Form W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals
The IRS has established a process that will allow businesses and payroll service providers to quickly report any data losses related to the W-2 scam currently making the rounds. If notified in time, the IRS can take steps to prevent employees from being victimized by identity thieves filing fraudulent returns in their names. There also is information about how to report receiving the scam email.
Report these schemes
- Email [email protected] to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. Do not attach any employee personally identifiable information.
- Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at [email protected] to learn how to report victim information to the states.
- Businesses/payroll service providers should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov). Businesses/payroll service providers may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement.
- Notify employees so they may take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The FTC’s www.identitytheft.gov provides general guidance.
- Forward the scam email to [email protected]
- See more details at Form W-2/SSN Data Theft: Information for Businesses and Payroll Service Providers.
Employers are urged to put protocols in place for the sharing of sensitive employee information such as Forms W-2. The W-2 scam is just one of several new variations that focus on the large-scale thefts of sensitive tax information from tax preparers, businesses and payroll companies.
Tax professionals who experience a data breach also should quickly report the incident to the IRS. See details at Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals.
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity.
The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. IRS doesn’t require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. Beware of this scam.
Variations can be seen via text messages. The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” These emails are not from the IRS.
The sites may ask for information used to file false tax returns or they may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at [email protected]
For more information, visit the IRS’s Report Phishing webpage.
Fraudsters Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
Some taxpayers receive emails that appear to be from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, trying to trick victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click any link. If you receive this scam, forward it to [email protected] and note that it seems to be a scam phishing for your information.
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information.
Other recent tax scams
Crooks Impersonate IRS to get Banking and Other Information
Heightened Fraud Activity as Filing Season Approaches
FBI Themed Ransomware Scam
Last-Minute Email Scams
Fictitious “Federal Student Tax” scam targeting students and parents and demanding payment
Automated calls requesting tax payments in the form of iTunes or other gift cards
Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry
How to report tax-related schemes, scams, identity theft and fraud
To report tax-related illegal activities, refer to our chart explaining the types of activity and the appropriate forms or other methods to use. You should also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
Taxpayers who experience tax-related identity theft may wonder when they should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
Gift Card Fraud Prevention
Tips to Help Avoid Gift Card Fraud
- Walmart Gift Cards can only be used at Walmart stores or Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, or on-line at Vudu, Inc., Walmart.com or Samsclub.com. No legitimate government entity, including the IRS, Treasury Department, FBI or local police department, will accept any form of gift cards as payment.
- Other businesses do not accept payments in the form of Walmart Gift Cards. For example, you will never be asked to pay your utility bills, bail money, debt collection and hospital bills with Walmart Gift Cards.
- Do not purchase, sell, or check your balance on online marketplaces outside of Walmart.com.
- If you get a call from a stranger who says that a loved one is in trouble and they ask you to provide gift card numbers to help them, hang up and contact your loved one directly.
- Don’t always trust your caller ID. Scammers can manipulate a caller ID to look like a legitimate company or government agency.
- Don’t purchase a gift card if it appears that the packaging has been altered or manipulated. If you have questions about a gift card, ask someone who works at that store.
- Don’t click on or respond to online ads or websites offering free gift cards. These are often scams.
- If you think you’ve been the victim of a gift card scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov .
Common Gift Card Scams
The Grandparent Scam
In this scam, the scammer will call a victim and indicate that a loved one is in some sort of trouble (i.e. kidnapped, arrested, etc.). Sometimes, the scammer pretends to be a lawyer or the loved one themselves and asks directly for money. The scammer then instructs the victim to purchase gift cards and give the gift card numbers to the scammer over the phone.
The Tech Support Scam
Perpetrators of tech support scams try to trick victims into believing their computers are infected and they need help. Some scammers pretend to be connected with Microsoft, Apple or a familiar security software company such as Norton or McAfee, and claim to have detected malware that poses an imminent threat to the person’s computer. Other scams feature planted website ads or pop-ups that display warning messages, some even featuring a clock ticking down the minutes before the victim’s hard drive will be destroyed by a virus — unless he or she calls a toll-free number for assistance in deactivating the menace. Such scammers will often ask for remote access to your computer to run phony diagnostic tests and pretend to discover defects in need of fixing. They’ll pressure you to pay for unnecessary repairs or new software, and ask for payment via gift cards.
Avoid Being the Victim of a Scam
Reporting Suspicious Behavior
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml or call 800-366-4484.
- If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Contact the FTC, which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ , call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to: Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580.
- For updates on other types of potential scams, check out the FTC’s “scam alert” website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts .
Government Impostor Scam
Scammers sometimes pretend to be government officials to get you to send them money. They might promise lottery winnings if you pay “taxes” or other fees, or they might threaten you with arrest or a lawsuit if you don’t pay a supposed debt. Regardless of their tactics, their goal is the same: to get you to send them money.
During tax season, scammers pretend to be from the IRS or other Government Agencies to scare customers into sending them money. They trick people into believing they owe taxes to the IRS. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation, or loss of a business or driver’s license. They ask the victims to go to Walmart to send a money transfer or to put the money on a prepaid card or gift card.
In reality, the IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. The IRS or any other government agency, such as prisons or jails, won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card, gift cards, or money transfers. The agency also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
Common Tactics Used by Callers Committing Fraud
- They use common names and fake IRS badge numbers
- They know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number
- They make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling
- They send bogus IRS emails to support their scam
- They call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV, and caller ID again supports their claim
What You Need to Know
- If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions
- If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484
- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov . Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint
How to Protect Yourself
Be alert for phone and email scams that use the IRS name or other Government Agencies
The IRS will never request personal or financial information by email, texting or any social media. You should forward scam emails to [email protected] . Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails
Coronavirus Vaccine Scam:
Beware, scammers may be targeting customers asking them to send money in order to reserve a Coronavirus vaccine. If you’re asked to wire money, provide a money order or load a prepaid/gift card to pay to reserve a Coronavirus vaccine, it is not legitimate.
A fraud method in which the fraudster sends out a legitimate-looking email in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from recipients. The scammer sends an email to an unsuspecting customer that may look just like a legitimate Walmart email (including use of the Walmart logo.) If the customer falls for the bait (thus the “fishing” reference), the thief could get credit card numbers, PINs, account passwords, expiration dates, credit card/bank account numbers and even Social Security numbers. Learn more about phishing. Learn more about phishing.
Vishing is very similar to “phishing” but instead of occurring through email, vishing happens over the phone. In these scams, fraudsters pose as a trusted retailer or bank and obtain personal information from the customer by requesting they “verify” the information on file. The information gained is then used for fraudulent transactions.
A good rule of thumb: If someone is contacting you to verify your personal information, it is very likely you did not provide it to them in the first place, and it is not a legitimate request. Legitimate companies will not expect you to provide your social security number or other personal information when they call you. If you receive a call like this, do not provide any information. If in doubt, call back a trusted number for the company, such as the one on a statement or invoice, the back of your credit/debit card, or on their official website (Do not use the phone number provided by the person on the phone or sent through a suspicious email.) Learn more about vishing.
A combination of the terms “SMS” and “phishing.” It is similar to phishing, but refers to fraudulent messages sent over SMS (text messaging) rather than email. The fraudster may text you saying you’ve won a free gift card. Remember, you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. Walmart doesn’t notify winners of any contest via text message. Learn more about smishing .
Tips to Avoid These Scams
- Never provide personal information in response to an unsolicited request, whether it is over the phone or internet. A trusted company will never ask a customer for highly sensitive information during a call they initiated. A financial institution may ask for the account holder’s partial Social Security Number for verification, but they will never ask for the entire Social Security Number, account number or PIN.
- Do not respond to any suspicious looking email, automated calls, or text messages.
- Don’t trust the Caller ID. Fraudsters can manipulate the Caller ID to have it display a legitimate business’ name. To be safe, you can check to see if the phone number matches the number that appears on your bank statement, credit/debit card, or on their official website.
- Avoid fraudulent sites by entering web addresses directly into the browser yourself or by using bookmarks you create. Do not click on links in emails that you did not directly request from a company or that look suspicious.
- If you have fallen victim to such a scam, contact your financial institution immediately to protect your accounts.
Don’t respond or reply to an email, phone call, or text message that:
- Requires you to supply personal or account information directly in the email
- Requires you to click on a link to provide more personal or account information
- Threatens to close or suspend your account if you do not take immediate action
- Invites you to answer a survey that asks you to enter personal or account information
- States that your account has been compromised or that there has been third-party activity on your account, then asks you to enter or confirm your personal or account information
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