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IRS scammers are up to their old tricks again! One of the most common phone scams every year happens when someone impersonating the IRS calls up and starts asking for money. Although the IRS will never contact you by phone to demand immediate payment, this scam continues to spread. Hiya, a smartphone app that protects users from phone spam and scam calls, reports that IRS and tax phone scams have gone up 1218% year over year from January and February 2017 to 2018.

When the IRS impersonator calls, they’ll say you owe them money and may threaten legal action or an arrest. Don’t fall for it! The scammers will often use caller ID spoofing to make their number show up as “IRS,” but that’s not always the case. Hiya says these are the top area codes where tax scams appear to originate: (202: Washington D.C.) (206: Seattle) (315: Upstate New York) (470: Atlanta) (631: Central and East Long Island, NY)  (314: St. Louis) Missouri) (415: San Francisco) (786: Miami) (646: New York City)

The IRS will not threaten you or demand payment over the phone. It initiates most contacts through regular mail.

Things are getting so bad, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently put out a warning about scam callers posing as utility companies. The FTC says whatever you do, “Don’t pay. It’s a scam. It’s not the utility company on the phone. It’s a scammer trying to trick you into paying them. How can you tell? The caller wants you to pay by wire transfer or with a gift card. No matter the story, that’s a sure sign of a scam.”  A simple rule: If I don’t recognize the number as being from someone you know, don’t answer the call.”

Suspect it to be a scam call? If the caller says it’s your bank, don’t trust them, after they say what the call is about, hang up! 

Because even when it’s a place you don’t do business with, the caller may be phony, the situation they’re calling you about may be a con. Don’t get taken!

Perhaps you’ve been there: You run across a new service and want to give it a try, but it costs money. You think long and hard, but then you see that it has a “risk-free” trial. What could go wrong, right?  A new study from the Better Business Bureau says that many of those “risk-free” trials are anything but free. The offers, which usually come with “celebrity” endorsements or other lures, are oftentimes not what they seem if not outright fraudulent and why many “risk-free” trials are anything but free, the BBB says buyer beware.  The agency’s investigation unveiled that in many cases, offers for free product samples are outright lies and that many companies bury the stringent conditions in fine print. “The study found that many of the celebrity endorsements are fake,” the BBB says. “Dozens of celebrity names are used by these frauds companies without their knowledge or permission. Sometimes the fine print even admits these endorsements are not real.”

“You only have to pay $1.95 for shipping and handling. There may be a risk that the product doesn’t work as claimed, but it costs next to nothing to find out. Just enter your name, address and credit card number and act quickly; supplies are limited.” Now they have your personal information!  Always read the fine print: That’s where you may discover that you only have 14 days (or less) to review and return the product to avoid charges. Don’t fall into a subscription trap: Always locate the company’s phone #, address and other contacts. “Many people find it difficult to contact the seller to stop recurring charges, halt shipments and get a refund,” the BBB says. Don’t use a debit card, use a credit card. A credit card has more consumer protections and essentially uses the bank’s money rather than yours. If something goes wrong, the bank always works harder and has a greater incentive to get its money back.

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