As summer comes near and the school year comes close to an end, university students are finishing papers, taking their last tests, and preparing to soak up some sun for the next three months.
That’s until they get a call that shatters their summer dreams and brings their financial world and future into a downward spiral. They’ve just received a “call” that has slapped them with an additional “federal student tax” related to either their student loan, taxes, or even an overdue parking ticket. If payment isn’t wired immediately, they’ll be reported to the police.
If you or a friend have received this call or text, DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL! Before you make a call to your bank or parents to dish out that cash, take a deep breath, and realize you’ve just been scammed!
As they’ve been known to prey on the elderly, scammers posing as IRS agents are now thriving off of the FEAR of students. Consumer Reports has announced that this growing scam is using the “caller ID spoofing” tactic [link to glitter spoofing article] “in which incoming caller ID information appears on people’s phones as “911” or as the name of a government agency.”
Unfortunately, personal information is no longer as private as we’d like it to be. College directories, which were created to be helpful resources for students to find each other, have now become a key source for scammers to exploit.
This past May, the IRS warned taxpayers of the new scheme. “Taxpayers should remain vigilant and not fall prey to these aggressive calls demanding immediate payment of a tax supposedly owed,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a written statement.
But we know in unexpected situations, we don’t tend to think things through. Here are some tips on how you can outsmart a scammer even in the most stressful of circumstances:
Don’t always believe what you hear or see. We all have had that feeling that there’s never enough time in a day. It’s important to remember that government agencies like the IRS or FBI do not have time to make unexpected calls and won’t demand direct payment over the phone or text without billing you first.
Keep your personal information to yourself. Remember when your parents used to tell you not to talk or give strangers your name and address? As an adult, same thing goes with your Social Security number, bank accounts, or other sensitive information. By limiting where you share your personal information and number, the least likely you’ll be targeted by scammers.
We can’t all ‘make it rain.’ As students, extra cash is hard to come by, so when you get that call asking you to wire or send prepaid debit/gift cards, this is a red flag. Payment requests like these are a typical trait that scammers have in common, so be aware that the IRS will never call requesting for these types of payments.
Screen your calls. If a number doesn’t look familiar to you, it’s a better idea not to pick it up immediately, and to wait for them to leave a voicemail. If they don’t leave one, and you have that burning desire to know who the unknown caller could be, look the number up online or use a caller ID app that will reverse search the number and identify if it’s been flagged as a scam caller.
Report Scammers. If you suspect that you’ve received a call from an IRS scam, prevent yourself and others from becoming victims by filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the IRS.