Tax season is getting close — and for some people, so is an experience with tax identity theft or IRS imposters. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You usually find out something’s wrong after you file your tax return.
Also, IRS imposters work year-round — posing as the IRS when they call and say you owe taxes. They even threaten to arrest you if you don’t put money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and can fake caller ID information to make it look like it really is the IRS calling. But it’s not. Ever.
Thinking about giving a fancy new gadget as a holiday gift? Or maybe there’s something on your wish list that Santa forgot to bring? If so, you might be tempted by an ad for high-tech at a low price. But if a merchant other than Amazon.com asks you to pay using an Amazon gift card, it’s probably a scam. In fact, Amazon’s gift card terms don’t allow you to use Amazon gift cards to make payments anywhere besides amazon.com and a few specific sites.
Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Many people around the world dream of getting a “Green Card” that allows them to live and work in the United States. The U.S. Department of State runs the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery. People from certain countries who apply and are selected in a lottery drawing could qualify to be “Lawful Permanent Residents.” Unfortunately, the FTC has seen websites that claim to be affiliated with the program, but are not.
Have you seen news reports about foreign websites showing live feeds from unsecured wireless cameras — like nanny cams, baby monitors, and security cameras — in the U.S. and around the world? It’s creepy stuff, but there are steps you can take to protect your camera from prying eyes.
Selling your used stuff online has become commonplace. So have scams taking advantage of the good names of reputable online companies. At the FTC, we’ve heard from people stung by scammers spoofing PayPal. The scam generally goes like this: You post a high-value item, like a used car, for sale online. In no time at all, you get an email from a buyer willing to pay full price — or more! But he sets conditions; he is only willing to pay by PayPal or insists the sale must happen right away. What’s really going on? A ruse to steal your personal information, money or merchandise.
Here are some suspicious situations to look for and steps to safe selling online.
“Your computer is damaged ... we’ll help you fix it.” It’s the latest twist on tech support scams: Scammers sell software online that claims to increase your computer’s performance. They lure you to their websites with pop-up ads or web searches. Then, they tell you to call a phone number to activate or register the software. On the phone, they ask for remote access to your computer and then tell you that your computer has many errors that need to be fixed immediately.
When you want free consumer information — for yourself or a group — the FTC is ready to take your order. Looking for identity theft brochures to share with your book club? We’ve got them. Online safety handouts to use in the classroom? Right here. Bookmarks about charity fraud to distribute at a community fair? Absolutely. Our new and better bulkorder site is your gateway to almost 200 free publications for consumers and businesses.