Currently a major scam is circulating where technicians allegedly from Microsoft or Dell call and attempt to compromise a user’s PC or obtain highly sensitive information. Likewise, a major scam is circulating where scammers pretend to be from IRS and attempt to steal money from frightened individuals.
As these social engineering schemes continue to circulate, users should resist giving up personal information by phone or email. Rather, they should use official channels of communication (e.g., calling them directly through officially published telephone numbers, US postal mail, etc.)
QUOTE: Starting last fall, scammers began passing themselves off as investigators for the Internal Revenue Service. Using the Internet, it was easy to find names, addresses and phone numbers of would-be victims who they are calling to threaten with arrest for failing to pay their taxes. They’re also sending out phony IRS emails to back up their phone calls. Presto! You’re a victim of social engineering. Who said cybercrime has to mean mucking about in software code?
The choice of the IRS was a stroke of genius. Even if someone fully pays Uncle Sam, there’s always going to be doubt left in their minds. We’ve all been there: Did I cut one too many corners claiming deductions? Did my accountant get a bit too creative? Did I flub basic math and add wrong? Any and all of the above?
The IRS says the ruse has so far taken in about 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million, according to the Treasury Department, making it the largest ever phone fraud in the US. The target profile is usually someone 55 or older — particularly people older than 70 who are less savvy to these scams and more trusting than someone who grew up with the Internet.
And the bad guys are still working it. The US Treasury Department’s Inspector General J. Russell George has described it as “the biggest scam that we’ve seen this year.” As of mid-August, some 90,000 people had called a government hotline to notify authorities. Truth be told, the phony IRS agents do make a convincing sales pitch.
The IRS has published pointers on its website to help identify the scams:
* Your first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue.
* If the person on the phone starts getting angry or threatening, hang up.
* The IRS is not going to call and demand credit or debit card payment over the telephone.
* By the same token, the agency won’t insist on specific ways to pay your tax bill.