Today, phone scams are still a big problem, but they’ve changed slightly. Whereas over the years, phone scams typically targeted people like the elderly, recent immigrants, or those who speak English as a second language, phone scams are now targeting everyone.
Furthermore, there is a new version of an already existing scam that’s been circulating. It’s called the fake warrant scam, and it involves so-called IRS agents calling you and demanding money.
A New Phone Scam: The Fake Warrant Scam
The new fake warrant scam involves a caller claiming to be an IRS agent and claiming to have a warrant out for your arrest. They claim that their warrant is for a significant amount of debt that you owe the government. Callers often know a lot about the people they call, and recipients of these phone calls are not only recent immigrants, those who speak English as a second language, or the elderly. They could be anyone, including you.
If you receive a scam call like this, the caller will usually refer to you by your full name, and they may even know your address, your phone number, your profession, and your Social Security number. All of this can be daunting and scary. When someone knows your full name and Social Security number, the call should be legitimate. It’s important to understand that this is not always the case.
Unfortunately, many criminals can quickly get a hold of citizens’ Social Security numbers and other personal information — usually, over the Internet.
As the fake warrant scams continue, the scam caller and so-called IRS agent typically reveals that you can remedy the situation in one of two ways: Civilly or criminally. That is, if you pay a civil fine right away, you can handle the issue “civilly.” If, on the other hand, you choose not to pay the fine, the warrant out for your arrest will come to fruition, and you will be duly arrested.
Those who succumb to this scam decide to pay the civil fine so that they are not arrested and face fewer legal ramifications. Most of the time, these individuals are frightened and worried. The phone call seems legitimate. Perhaps it is possible that they do owe the government money by way of back taxes or other fines, or perhaps they worry that there was something they missed in their taxes last year. They elect to pay the fine. But of course, they are making a payment to a criminal.
When a fake warrant phone call recipient elects to pay a fine like this (which is a scam), the agent on the other end will say that they can help them carry out the payment. Typically, the caller will offer instructions for using a prepaid debit card — such as a Green Dot Card or a card from a major bank — to pay the fine. These cards, the caller will say, can be obtained from local stores. Sometimes, the caller will even offer the names of stores in the individual’s area where they can go to purchase them.
At this point, individuals are given a callback number to call after the prepaid debit card is paid for and obtained. The scammer will instruct the individual to call this number and carry out the final payment of their fine. After this, they’ll let the individual know that they will be off the hook for any debt, and they will no longer have a warrant out against them.
The Facts: How to Spot This Scam and Not Fall for It
The fake warrant scam is quite common, and scammers have gotten better at sounding extremely professional, knowing a lot of personal information about the recipient of the call, and making the entire affair seem completely legitimate.
What you need to know, however, is that law enforcement agents will never ask you to provide monetary card information to avoid arrest.
Furthermore, remember that if someone calls and knows personal information about you, this should not be a sign that they are legitimate. Again, unfortunately, personal information such as Social Security numbers, contact information, and more can be obtained in some ways online — especially by professional hackers and scammers.
Also keep in mind that if the caller wants to know additional information about you, you should never provide this. Never offer your date of birth, Social Security number, or any other personal information.
What you can do if you receive a phone call like this is collect as much information as you can so that others are not tricked. If they give you a name, location, phone number, or any other details, write it down, and pass it to your local police department.
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