Getting automated unwanted phone calls from the IRS threatening legal action and asking you to call back? Odds are it’s not the IRS, it’s a government imposter scam phone call – one of the more popular phone call scams to steal money from people.
Government agencies will rarely directly call you – if they do, it will be after sending you a letter or in response to a call you made to them. And they certainly won’t threaten you or demand you make a payment by wiring money or paying with a gift card, or ask for your personal information.
“But my phone’s caller ID shows that the call is from the government,” you say. Don’t trust that call information! Scammers use technology to show a number that looks legitimate while hiding their real number. In fact, scam phone calls can look like they come not just from the government, but from businesses and even neighbors. I recently received a call from my own phone number – another scam phone call trick.
The National Do Not Call Registry
Although it won’t keep most scammers away, it’s a good idea to register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry – just to help cut down on any unwanted unsolicited calls from real businesses. Operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the registry is for both cell land-line phones. To register, call 1-888-382-1222 (you must call from the phone you’re registering). Or you can register online (you will need to respond to a confirmation email).
If you signed up for the Do Not Call Registry in the past, there is no need to sign up again—phone numbers on the registry do not expire. Not sure if you’re on the list or not? Enter your phone number(s) and email address on the Verify Your Registration form. You will receive an email verifying whether or not your phone number(s) are on the registry.
If you’re on the Do Not Call Registry and are still receiving unwanted calls, then you know that they are more than likely scam phone calls, which are typically illegal robocalls (recorded sales calls) and/or calls from fake names or numbers.
Taking Care of Unwanted Calls
What to do it you get an unwanted call?
- Immediately hang up and do not press any numbers or provide any information.
- If you get a call from a number you don’t know and it stops after just one ring, don’t call back. More than likely it’s a “one ring” scam: The scammer wants you to call back because it’s an international toll number that will be a charge on your phone bill “with most of the money going to the scammer,” the FTC reported in a recent scam advisory.
- Don’t give out information such as your Social Security number, or Medicare, bank account or credit card information to anyone who just calls you over the phone that you don’t know.
- Don’t give the caller any money. Top phone scam payment methods used are money wire transfers and gift cards. With gift card scams, the imposter asks you to purchase a popular gift card such as Amazon or Google Play and then asks you for the gift card and the card’s PIN. Once they have that information, scammers immediately access the money you loaded on the card.
- You can block unwanted calls to try to eliminate or limit the number of scam calls you receive. Check out the FTC’s How To Block Unwanted Calls page for tips and information.