Common Scams and How to Protect Yourself

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27th Aug 2015

The long-lost relative and other common scams.


Over the past two-three years our offices have received numerous calls from individuals “desperately” trying to get money from their bank account to wire to someone claiming to have information on a long-lost relative who died and left them money; an “IRS” agent who says unless you immediately wire $2,500 they have the Sheriff on the way to arrest you for tax fraud; or your son (grandson, wife, etc.) was in an accident, or arrested and unless you bail them out with a money order in the next twenty minutes they are going to jail.  You may think this is an exaggeration, but it happens daily and millions of dollars are lost in these scams.

The one thing that these scams, and numerous others have in common, is that you are asked to send a money order or wire money in order to receive the inheritance, stop the IRS from arresting you, or bailing your relative out of jail.

We have had several clients who have been so frightened that the “IRS” was sending a Sheriff to arrest them that they were furiously attempting to send money, when a family member contacted our offices and we asked to speak to the IRS agent.  Of course as soon as the scammer heard “we have our attorney on the line, can you discuss this with him?” the scammer immediately hung up and no one was answering the telephone that was using a Washington D.C. prefix, but was actually a disguised telephone number from a foreign country!

Often telephone scammers don’t immediately ask for money, but may indicate that in order to pay taxes, or set up a wire transfer to you, you need to send a money order or wire money in order to establish an account or pay the taxes on your lottery winnings. It is amazing that millions of people who have never entered the lottery become winners.

Why would someone you’re estranged from, that you don’t know where they live, leave you any money?  It is possible, but the odds are better if you play the lottery.

The Utah Department of Commerce, Division of Consumer Protection has examples of phony IRS calls and samples of forms to report identity theft.

Don’t become a victim NEVER give out your social security number, your banking information or birth date over the phone!!

IRS scams : A scammer calls and claims the individual owes the IRS money.  Advice: IRS typically does not contact consumers by telephone.

Lottery scams : The scammer claims you won a sum of money but instructs you to pay a fee, buy something or deposit a portion of the money back.  Advice: Don’t pay money to receive money.

Past debt scams : The scammer poses as a debt collector.  Advice: Call the lender or debt collector directly using the number listed on your bill.

Inheritance scam : A scammer claims the individual can collect an inheritance from a long-lost relative who passed away. Advice: Get in touch with family directly to verify the death and relationship.

Medicare fraud scam : A scammer calls claiming to be from Medicare and says the individual can avoid arrest for fraud by sending money. Advice: Government agencies don’t typically threaten for money by phone.

Government grant scam : A scammer called a consumer and claimed the individual could receive a “tax-free grant.” Advice: Don’t pay money to receive money, especially if you didn’t initiate the interaction.

The “Holidays” are just around the corner (yes, it is August, but they are around the corner) and this is a time scammers ramp up their efforts, posing as boy scouts, shopping for Toys for Tots with the Marine Corps, Police taking children shopping for Christmas, etc.  There are reputable charities in the State, if you want to contribute, contact them directly, Our offices strongly discourage you from going through  a phone solicitation for any charitable donations!

If you think you might be the victim of a scam, or identity theft, call the Consumer Protection Division at 801-530-6601.

Call an attorney at Christensen Young & Associates, 801-676-6447 if you believe you have been the victim of illegal or unethical business practices, and schedule a free consultation.