State officials warn of three different phone scams
VERMONT — Officials from two government agencies and from the state’s largest utility are warning Vermonters to be wary of three different scams being perpetrated over the telephone.
The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) last week alerted Vermonters to scams regarding Vermont Health Connect, the state’s health insurance exchange. Commissioner Susan L. Donegan said that the department has received reports of fraudulent phone calls made to Vermonters by people pretending to sell health insurance in order to obtain personal information.
“The scams that DFR is aware of have involved tricking consumers into revealing Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information under the guise of enrolling them in a health insurance plan on Vermont Health Connect,” Donegan said.
Recently the federal government and other states have alerted consumers to watch out for con artists who might try to impersonate navigators and other health insurance sales people in order to obtain personal information. Navigators are state-approved personnel who have been trained to guide people through the enrollment process.
Donegan emphasized that people should never give out personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card information unless they are sure of the individual or institution with whom they are dealing.
Anyone who thinks they have received a suspicious call is asked to contact the DFR Insurance Division, toll-free, at 1-800-964-1784.
GREEN MOUNTAIN POWER WARNING
Separately, Green Mountain Power this month warned customers that more attempts to scam GMP customers over the phone had been reported. The callers in these cases claim to be representing Green Mountain Power and request the customer to pay their account balance by releasing credit card information to the caller or paying their bill by means of a money card or other alternate payment mechanism. The callers also represent that the customers’ electric service will be disconnected if they do not comply.
This is definitely a phone scam. Green Mountain Power follows very clear state rules when working with customers about paying past due bills. Green Mountain Power advises customers that it does not demand credit card information or alternate payment mechanisms from a customer for any purpose.
Any customer receiving such a call should not provide the caller with any personal information, including account and credit card numbers. If you have any doubt about the source of the call, you should hang up and call Green Mountain Power’s toll free customer service line at 1-888-835-4672 to verify the caller’s identity.
The Attorney General’s office recommends reporting these phone scam calls by calling, toll-free, 1-800-649-2424.
IRS ISSUES ALERT
That same week, the federal Internal Revenue Service warned the public about a phone scam that targets people across the nation, including recent immigrants. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.
The callers who commit this fraud often:
• Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
• Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
• Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling.
• Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
• Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV, and caller ID again supports their claim.
The truth is the IRS usually first contacts people by mail — not by phone — about unpaid taxes. And IRS officials said the agency won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The agency also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone, either.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:
If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS, toll-free, at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Be alert for phone and email scams that use the name of any state or federal agency or Green Mountain Power. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails. If you didn’t initiate the call, never provide valuable information, such as a Social Security number or personal banking information, over the phone. If you feel uneasy about a caller, hang up and report the call to the authorities.
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