It’s tax time, and along with anticipation of a refund, or dread of a big payment, come inevitable scams.
Northern Colorado and Colorado State University students and employees are not immune to scammers who pretend to represent a government or law enforcement agency. In the past, some phone scams have appeared to target students and employees.
Recognize when a call is not legitimate
Technology allows scam callers to “spoof” caller ID technology. By spoofing a number, the scammer can make it appear that their call is from an official phone number, such as Colorado State University Police Department or other law enforcement, the FBI, IRS or another location that appears to be credible and authoritative.
These callers may use online information, such as social media accounts or directories, to gather phone numbers and information about the students and employees the call to lend credibility to their scam, warns CSUPD. This can give the impression to the recipient of the call that the scam caller has access to private information about you in an attempt to appear more credible.
These callers use a variety of threats to extort money from the person they reach, such as asserting a person may be facing an arrest, or removal from the country or university for outstanding fines, bill or taxes. The caller will often reference liens, court dates, wage garnishments, jail time, and, when speaking with individuals who may be international students, deportation.
Important tips from CSUPD
- Virtually all attempts over the phone to solicit payment via PayPal, Western union or MoneyGram, or gift cards from local businesses are fraudulent. The IRS does not call about tax debts before attempting contact in writing, and they do not demand payment by specific methods or via a third party.
- Do not share sensitive, personal or financial information over the phone, even if the caller sounds legitimate and the information they are sharing is accurate. People who perpetuate phone scams go through extensive steps to make their scam appear legitimate. These include creating false but credible-looking websites or otherwise directing you to or referencing information that is or appears to be affiliated with a business or agency that they claim to represent may not be truthful.
- Protect your passwords and online identity, including your passwords to university information. Change them often.
- Set privacy settings on social media to prevent people you do not know from viewing your information. Do not accept requests to connect over social media with people you don’t know.
- If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from a law enforcement agency who is demanding money, hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency to verify the information.
- Most tax enforcement is civil. The IRS does not issue arrest warrants or refer cases to its criminal investigations division until they are far past any tax collection efforts. Criminal prosecution by the IRS is extremely rare and anyone being charged criminally by the IRS would not be notified with a threatening phone call demanding back payment.
- If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS or a government office, hang up, find that office’s contact information independently of any information provided to you by the caller (search for it online, for example). Then, contact that office to verify legitimacy.
- Report fraudulent calls to the Federal Trade Commission or, if the call involves accusations regarding taxes and IRS affiliations, report the call to the US Treasury Inspector General.
- If you believe you have become a victim of a scam, contact your local police.
- If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from a university office who is demanding money, hang up and call the university to verify that information.
- More information about phone scams.