Tag Archives: Phishing

Avoiding IRS Phone Scams

Internal Revenue Service

Tax season may be over, but IRS scams are still in full force. The Internal Revenue Service has announced a “new twist” on IRS phone scams. Criminals call unsuspecting targets and claim to work for the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Callers use a spoofed phone number from a TAS office located in Houston or Brooklyn. They may use robocalls, requesting a callback. When the person calls the fake office, they will be asked to provide their individual taxpayer identification number or Social Security number.

Who Is the TAS?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization that operated within the IRS. They provide help to people facing an issue with the IRS such as issues filing a return, tax debt or problems working with the system. People seeking information from the TAS are directed to call the organization directly; the TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers offering services.

The Scam

“Representatives” inform their victims that they owe taxes and must pay immediately or lose their driver’s license or face jail time. The caller, who is typically hostile or even abusive, demands payment through a pre-paid debit card or a wire transfer. The scammers take it one step further by placing a second call, supposedly from a law enforcement agency or Department of Motor Vehicles. If the victim uses an app for unknown number look ups, he will find that the number has been spoofed to match the organization’s official number.

There is a variation on the scam. The con artist may try to trick the person into believing he has a large refund due, but must provide personal information to receive it.

Other Tactics

Scammers have developed more tactics to fool the public. They include supplying fake names and IRS badge numbers, sending bogus emails to back up their claims, mimicking the sounds of a call center, or providing the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number.

Signs It’s a Scam

The IRS publishes a list of things that they would never do with the hopes of alerting the public. For example, the IRS never calls to inform a taxpayer that he owes money, nor do they make threats or involve local law enforcement. If you receive a call, do not give out personal information, nor should you engage the caller in any way. The longer you stay on the phone, the longer the scammer thinks you may fall for the scam.

The scammers may also attempt phishing to gain information via email. They will request personal information and payment, complete with threats.

Report the Fraud

If you receive an email, do not respond and report it immediately to [email protected] (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).

To report a phone call, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. You can also file a complaint on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. Additionally, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant with “IRS Telephone Scam” as the subject.

 

Cyberstalkers and Their Victims

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of social media, phone calls, text messages, email, and other forms of technology to threaten, harass, pursue, intimidate or steal a person’s information for personal gain. For that reason, anyone who uses the Internet can be a target. Cyberstalkers are often driven by jealousy, anger, hatred, infatuation, revenge, and lust or obsession. Some might suffer from mental illness. Some cyberstalkers, known as Internet Trolls, will harass Internet users for no good reason. A cyberstalker could be a stranger, but most likely is someone the victim knows. The stalker could be an ex, someone from school, co-worker, someone with whom you’ve had an argument or fight, or even a fan or potential love interest.

The Four Types of Cyberstalkers

Cyberstalkers cause a lot of trouble for their victims with rumors, false allegations, lies, harassment, or even identity theft. Cyberstalking can include cyberbullying, which takes place between kids. Cyberstalking may also include inappropriate actions, including those of a sexual nature. Research has shown that there are four basic types of cyberstalkers. They are:

  • Vindictive: Cyberstalkers who want to get revenge or harm another person. They often engage in personal attacks;
  • Composed: Those whose want to annoy the victim;
  • Intimate: One who wants to have a relationship (friendship or love) with the victim. Therefore, cyberstalkers can turn violent if turned away;
  • Collective: A group of cyberstalkers who attack an individual or group for a specific cause.

The Harmful Result

Stalking causes a great deal of harm to the victim. It can ruin marriages, self-esteem, careers, or someone’s credit. Cyberbullies have been the cause of many children committing suicide. Obsessions can move from cyberspace to real-world stalking. Cyberstalkers may claim that they mean no harm, although what is being done may be extremely harmful and often illegal. Victims may not know they are being stalked. The stalker could use spyware or other means of tracking Internet use behind the scenes. You should increase your security if you think that you are being tracked in some way. Take extra precautions.

Precautions

Protect yourself by taking simple precautions. Regardless of how careful you are, it’s possible to become a target. However, you can avoid becoming a victim of cyberstalking, despite the method used to target you.

  • Restrict access to your computer, smartphone, and other devices. Leaving your computer open can allow hackers to alter the system and add software for tracking purposes.
  • Password protection. You should protect all devices with unique passwords to keep from being stalked. Use a web-based password vault to store passwords and change passwords often. Never use the same password for more than one program. Above all, avoid using passwords such as children’s or pets’ names or birthdays.
  • Sign out of computer programs when finished, especially on social media accounts.
  • Search your name online to see what information is available to the public. Do the same for family members.
  • Tell friends and family that you do not want your personal information on their social media accounts. Remove such info wherever possible.
  • Keep online calendars and plans private.
  • Post with care. If you post something, it is nearly impossible to take it back. This includes photographs.
  • Don’t announce travel plans or sharing where you will be on a certain date and time.
  • Use anti-virus, spyware, malware and anti-tracking software on all devices.
  • Teach children how to be smart about Internet use and to report any strange behavior immediately.
  • Don’t give out personal information such as your address, social security number, or bank information.
  • Hackers can obtain all information provided online.
  • Don’t get involved in online arguments.
  • Never open attachments from unknown sources.
  • Use screen names that are age and gender neutral.
  • Check the status of bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis.
  • Set up new emails for dating websites and social media accounts.

Cyberstalked? Now What?

If you see signs of cyberstalking, act right away. Police and other agencies often have cyber divisions that can help with the legal aspects of the crime and how to protect yourself.

  • Take suspicions seriously.
  • Report any possible illegal activity.
  • Avoid any contact with suspected cyberstalkers.
  • Record and block any email or phone numbers used to contact you with harassing messages. Use an iPhone cell phone trace app to check unknown numbers.
  • Change your account passwords.
  • Change email accounts.
  • Remove personal information on social media profiles and dating websites.
  • Reset privacy settings on all accounts and programs.
  • Delete online accounts if necessary.
  • Inform family and friends of the event.
  • Be aware of any real-life stalking activity.

In conclusion, it seems that cyberstalking is here to stay. However, if you are mindful, you can stay safe.