AARP offers tips to stop tax scams

VERMONT — The AARP Fraud Watch Network lit up the phone lines on Sept. 17 as part of a “Reverse Boiler Room,” dialing thousands of residents to warn them about two leading “imposter scams” hitting thousands of Vermonters — the IRS and “tech support” scams.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell joined AARP Vermont volunteers and staff in Boston along with other regional attorneys general to help educate the public and call attention to the growing crime. Borrowing a favorite tactic of con artists, AARP Fraud Watch Network staff and volunteers operated their own telemarketing boiler room. But instead of hearing from crooks, Vermont residents received tips and information on how to protect themselves from “imposter scams.”
Impersonating police officers, federal agents, the IRS or financial service companies, scammers use their “authority” to scare a person into paying them. Or, they pretend to be a friend or loved one in trouble who needs money.
“Every year, more and more Vermonters are victimized by these criminals and once the money is gone it is nearly impossible to recover,” said Sorrell. “The best defense for people is to be informed and savvy about the various forms of consumer fraud happening every day — whether over the phone, the Internet, your email, your mail box or even at your front door,” he said.
“Every 2 seconds someone’s identity is stolen in this country,” said Greg Marchildon, state director of AARP Vermont. “Con artists think they can bully people into forking over their hard-earned money and it’s become a multi-billion dollar industry. That’s why today, we’re turning the tables on them, arming Americans with the information they need so they know what to watch out for.”
In the IRS scam, people receive a phone call from an IRS official ordering them to pay back taxes or face arrest. In the tech support scam, they’re told your computer has a virus and the callers request remote access to their computer to fix it. “We’re giving people the facts: The IRS will never call you over the phone and demand payment. Any initial communication will come through the mail,” said Marchildon. “And, Microsoft or other large computer companies will not call you unsolicited asking for access to your computer and demand payment.”
“Reverse Boiler Room” is part of a partnership between the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the Attorney General’s Office and brings together volunteers from across the state trained in coaching people how to spot and avoid scams. The Fraud Watch Network arms people with the information they need to spot and avoid scams so they can protect themselves and their families.
By signing up for the Fraud Watch Network, consumers get access to:
• The latest scam alerts, delivered right to their inbox.
• A scam tracking map featuring warnings from local law enforcement and first-hand accounts of breaking scams from people in their state.
• The Con Artist Playbook — interviews with con artists who reveal how they steal people’s hard-earned money.
• A fraud hotline people can call to talk to a trained volunteer for advice if they are worried that they or a loved one has been scammed or if they suspect a scam in their community.
The Attorneys General and volunteers shared the following tips with call recipients.
Tax Scam Protection Tips
Know that the IRS does not:
• Call to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
• Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.
Tech Scam Protection Tips
• Scammers claim affiliation with Microsoft, “Windows,” computer manufacturers or others, but legitimate employees of those companies don’t make phone calls or send “personal” email warnings about an infection in a particular computer. When real threats are detected, a security update or warning is usually sent en masse — and directly to your computer by the manufacturer of the antivirus protection installed on your machine.
• Unless you initiate contact with a trusted technology assistance firm like Geek Squad, never give strangers remote access to your computer. (They may get it by asking you to type a certain code, download a program they provide, or provide them with your username and password.)
• Don’t be fooled if a phoning tech support scammer knows your name, address or even the operating system you’re using. Cybercrooks glean their targets through public phone directories and often “guess” your operating system by citing more popular ones.
• At least once a week, check for updates in your security software and run scans several times a week.
• For legitimate tech support, Microsoft users can call 877-696-7786 and Mac users can call Apple at 800-275-2273. Do not trust other phone numbers provided in calls or emails, as they may belong to scammers.

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