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It’s that time of the year that most people begin collecting materials it’s not too early for IRS impersonators to attack. While the phone call is favored approach, there is an uptick in fraudulent emails and text messages with a general message: there are some problems with your tax payments in 2021 and failure to address this now will result in fines and or imprisonment.

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The new year has arrived and so have the scammers. Here's what's happening right now.

Tax scams

It’s that time of the year that most people begin collecting materials, and it’s not too early for IRS impersonators to attack. While the phone call is the favored approach, there is an uptick in fraudulent emails and text messages with a general message: "There are some problems with your tax payments in 2021 and failure to address this now will result in fines and or imprisonment. Phone text, and email messages like this are fraudulent."

The IRS, as well as other government agencies will contact you by first class or registered letter. The IRS recommends the following if you receive one of these messages: 1. Don't reply; 2. Don't open any attachments; malicious code that might infect your computer or mobile phone; 3. Don't click on any links.

Visit the IRS web page irs.gov/identity-theft-central if you clicked on links in a suspicious email or website and entered confidential information; 4. Forward, preferably with the full email headers, the email as-is to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. Don't forward scanned images, because this removes valuable information; 5. Delete the original email.

Medicare scams

The new year means that millions of people across the country have enrolled in new supplemental or Advantage programs. Criminals are aware; it’s an opportunity to steal money, personal information or both. The scam, again, might come as a phone call, text message or email often asking you to verify coverage status and provide personal information. You might be told that you are eligible for special devices, such as back or knee braces; all you need do is provide your Medicare number. If you receive of one of these messages, report it. Medicare advises that you call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227); if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, call the Medicare Drug Integrity Contractor at 877-7SAFERX (877-772-3379).

Medical insurance fraud alert

You might receive a call from an online pharmacy. Initially, the automated call asks for name verification birthdate or other information. While the call might be legitimate, do not provide any personal data unless you can absolutely verify the identity of the caller. Instead, call your provider using a safe phone number to verify the inquiry. Remember, caller ID displays aren’t reliable.

COVID scams

With the scarcity of at-home testing kits, advertisements for kits have appeared in social media and as pop-ups on computer screens. Beware! You might lose money to a criminal or worse, you might end up with an out-of-date test kit that provides false results. Report online to the FBI — IC3.gov.

Test kit price-gouging is rampant. Test kits are being sold for three times their retail value. Free or inexpensive testing continues to be available at state-sponsored test sites and many pharmacies. Report any COVID test price-gouging to your state consumer protection agency: Massachusetts, 617-727-8400, or www.mass.gov/get-consumer-support; New Hampshire., 603-271-3643 or business.nh.gov/ConsumerComplaint; New York, 800-771-7755, or ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms; Vermont, 800-649-2424, or ago.vermont.gov/cap/stopping-scams.

A number scams have arisen around the availability of newly-released Pfizer COVID pill. This alternative to vaccine protection is attractive to many and once again the criminal sees opportunity. Obtaining the pill is currently restricted and requires a prescription. The pill is not available “over-the-counter” or on social media; these are scams. Report them to the FDA.

Porch pirates

Supply chain issues that delayed delivery of many holiday gifts and package continue. If you are expecting deliveries, try to schedule them at a time when someone is present or arrange for a neighbor to hold the items. You might consider purchasing a lockable box where deliveries can be made safely (search package delivery box with your browser).

Who's who?

A number of companies publish "Who’s Who" biographies of “notable” people who seemingly were “nominated” for recognition. These organizations make money selling directories they publish that might enhance acceptance or employment. Scammers have discovered that it is easy to collect personal information by impersonating these publishers. If deciding to go forward with the nomination, check the legitimacy of the offer. Providing life history and critical data can put you at risk. It would also be valuable to check the efficacy of the company and ask whether or not your personal information is sold or shared.

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV, Sunderland, Vermont at gnat-tv.org. Questions, concerns? Contact egreenblott@aarp.org.


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