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Tax Season Tips to Avoid Scammers and Robocalls

(StatePoint) It's tax season. The time of year when phone scammers get particularly aggressive trying to trick you out of your hard-earned money. And scam calls and robocalls are a growing problem for everyone. Here are a few tricks to help you dodge scammers and give you peace of mind.

Know the Signs

Scam call technology is always changing, so it's important to stay vigilant against scammers' attempts to get you to answer your phone. Every year, they make millions off innocent victims with new techniques. Their latest method, known as number-spoofing technology, could fool even the savviest consumers into answering the phone. Number-spoofing makes a scammer's number appear as either a familiar number with a local area code or even come up on Caller ID as the "IRS." If you don't answer, they may also leave "urgent" callback voicemails via robocalls. Recognizing these tactics can help you stay safe. If you suspect a call (or a voicemail) is a scam, hang up. If you want to be sure, don't call back the number provided but instead, look up your local IRS Customer Service number on the Internet and call the IRS directly.

Use Protection Tools

Check out what technology your wireless company offers that can protect you from scam and spoof calls. For example, T-Mobile offers free scam and spoofing protection for customers with Scam ID and Scam Block. These tools are made available to all postpaid customers and live on the T-Mobile network, so no app is required. As soon as a call reaches the network, it's analyzed and if it's scam, the incoming call is tagged as Scam Likely. If customers want to stop scam calls completely, they can turn on Scam Block. With these tools in place, in the last two years, T-Mobile has alerted customers to over 10 billion Scam Likely calls. And in 2019, T-Mobile reports warning customers of 225 million Scam Likely calls each week. Others wireless providers usually also offer customers app solutions to help identify scam calls for a small monthly fee. Check with your provider to see what is available.

New standards from the Federal Communications Commission, called STIR/SHAKEN, are also helping protect consumers. T-Mobile's implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, Caller Verified, lets you know when a call made on the T-Mobile network is authentic and not intercepted by scammers and spammers. Once other wireless providers implement STIR/SHAKEN, Caller Verified will work on calls made across networks.

Know Your Rights

While scam-blocking technology can help you filter out scam and spoof calls, it's also important to know your rights. Many of these calls use intimidation tactics to scare consumers into divulging sensitive information over the phone. The IRS website notes that they will always make attempts to reach you via postal mail first and they will never ask you for a specific form of payment. You should know that you always have the right to formally contest the amount owed, and the IRS will not make threats against you or your family regarding arrest or deportation. If you have any elderly or susceptible family members, talk to them about how to avoid such scams and consider setting them up with the latest technology to help them stay safe.

This tax season, be wary about the calls that you receive. With up-to-date information and new technology, you can protect your pocketbook from scammers.


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