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Tax time has become prime season for scammers

By Bob Harris

There are warnings on TV, in the newspapers and even in the February 2016 Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association newsletter about criminals who try to get money from you claiming you owe money to the IRS. These criminals use this scam around this time of the year.

They call and claim you owe money to the IRS. They sometimes threaten you with all kinds of punishments, sometimes acting very tough on the phone and even threaten to arrest you. If this ever happens just hang up. The IRS does not call people asking for back taxes or penalties. The criminals try to intimidate senior citizens into sending them money. Sometimes “IRS” shows up on caller ID or even a fake badge number.

Sometimes the scam artist says the IRS owes you money and asks for your bank account number or other personal information so they can send you the money. Hang up, it is a scam. If you have any doubts, then call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

Another scam is the tech support one. Unsolicited calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows tech support says that viruses have been detected on your computer. It is a scam. Hang up.They want you to call up a certain website and follow the directions. A dummy screen may appear showing viruses being detected and eliminated, but in reality malware is being installed that allows the scammer to steal your usernames and passwords. That is why one should just hang up. Also, don’t click any links in unsolicited emails from “Microsoft” or in any pop-up ads promising to speed up your computer if you did not call asking for this information.

It seems that often the phone rings and no one is on the line. This may be an automated computer dialing system making thousands of calls. If you have caller ID screen your calls, and don’t pick up any number you do not know. If you pick up the phone then say hello once or twice or three times in quick succession, and if there is no response then hang up quickly. In any case, don’t call back any unknown number.

Sometimes criminals obtain some information about you such as your first name and use this information to gain your confidence so you will give them passwords or bank account numbers or the name of your bank. Criminals try to gain your confidence so they can get you to wire them money with the promise that they will send you a lot more money in the future.

Also be aware that criminals work with each other. If a criminal does trick you and gets money from you they may tell a friend who then contacts you saying that if you give them some money they will get the original money back. This is a scam. The scam artist will usually only ask for a few dollars on the theory that you would more readily give them a small amount of money than several thousand dollars.

Try to outthink the criminal. Just hang up, even if they call back. They are fishing for information so they can rob you. If a situation seems too good or unrealistic, then it is a scam. Hang up.

State Senator Leroy Comre printed a nice booklet, “Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.” It was given out at the last Community Board 8 meeting. There is too much information for me to print it all so if you want a copy call his district office at (718) 454-0162.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: In response to too many city workers putting in many hours of overtime in their last years before retiring and getting huge pensions, the city decided to set up a computer system in 1998 to track large overtime payments. Regretfully crooks overbilled for the project.

The scam was called CityTime. Today we still have no way to stop expanded pensions for retirees.

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