MORRIS – I recently attended a workshop on scams and identity theft at the University of Illinois Extension in Morris.
Among other things, one of the subjects that came up was phone and email scams from people claiming to be from the IRS.
I’ve had my share of suspicious phone calls, strange if not laughable emails asking for money and even fraudulent purchases from my checking account several years ago.
The seminar was informative and I keep a good watch on my accounts. Somehow that makes me feel that I’m informed and on top of things.
But I was pretty surprised to hear the urgency in the voice mail a man left for me, claiming to be from the IRS just this week. It was actually the second of two voice mails in as many days, but the first was so garbled I wasn’t sure what he was saying.
The second call was clear and demanding; if I did not immediately contact him at the number provided, there would be a warrant for my arrest because of criminal allegations against me.
I have to say a shiver went up my back. Even though I had no reason to question myself, it did make me stop and think, if just for a moment. So I can certainly understand how some people might get tricked into believing such a call.
I contacted Channahon Police Chief Jeff Wold who said the department had received several reports about calls of this nature.
The one big thing I took away from the scam workshop is the IRS will never call you or send you an email. If they have an issue with you, you will be contacted by mail. And even at that, make sure you check out the validity of a letter just to be sure.
There are so many unscrupulous people out there, trying in every way to separate you from your money. Just when they educate the public about one type of scam, another emerges, Wold said.
Another scare tactic Wold has been hearing about is calls from someone claiming to be with a law firm about a judgment against you and demanding you to make restitution. A local judge’s wife received one of these calls recently.
Having multiple credit cards and bank accounts can make it difficult to keep track of everything; but it’s so important to check every statement you receive and verify all your purchases – a nightmare if you use a debit card, but imperative.
I received a call from my bank about some credit card transactions just today. There were six charges from a company out of Kuwait on my card. Red flag!
I hadn’t received a statement for the month, so I’m so appreciative my bank is helping to look out for me.
I also have identity theft protection through another party, but they hadn’t detected the fraud.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about these IRS or other scams – they may be able to recite the last four digits of your Social Security number; they can spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID; they sometimes send bogus emails to support their bogus calls; they may call back pretending to be from the local police or department of motor vehicles to support their claim.
If any call or email raises a red flag, contact your bank, credit card company or the IRS using phone numbers from your accounts or checking with information, not the number the caller has left for you.
Never, ever give out any personal information to someone who calls you. If they are legit, they will understand and you can call back using a secure number – I did that today when my bank called me. If not, who cares.
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at email@example.com.