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Lesson 3: How to protect yourself from a scam

Scammers show up online, over the phone and in person. It’s important to follow tips to protect yourself from becoming deceived.

For example, in recent years one of the most commonly reported types of fraud has been IRS impersonation.

But you can avoid getting scammed by understanding that the IRS will never:

  • Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment.
  • Call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill to the taxpayer.
  • Demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving that person the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.
  • Ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
  • Threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.
  • Require a taxpayer to use a special payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or gift cards.

Additionally, in the era of COVID-19, the Justice Department has shut down hundreds of suspicious websites (many with terms such as “coronavirus” and “COVID19” in the domain name) that are promising vaccines and other aid.

These sites are often pretending to represent government agencies or humanitarian organizations. Once you click on those malicious domains, you’ll likely start to receive phishing emails from scammers who are trying to collect your personal information.

If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam and you’ll be better able to protect both yourself and your family.

  • Step 1

    Don’t give out personal information. Scammers often present themselves as people you know or trust, so it’s important not to present them with valuable information.

  • Step 2

    Check the language used by whomever you’re speaking with, as fraudsters will often use suspicious and confusing speech to avoid transparency.

  • Step 3

    Set electronic banking alerts and continue to monitor for potential fraud within the discipline you’re dealing with.

  • Step 4

    Take time to check the story. Scammers want to pressure you into doing something quickly, but don’t. Slow down and do an online search or talk to someone about it; even just telling a friend can help you spot a scam.

  • Step 5

    Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel quite right, or it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Protecting Yourself From Scams

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