Rule Five Tax Scam Friday

The nation is sequestering-in-place, the Trump Administration has put off the tax-filing deadline by three months, and the tax-scammers have been given an added ninety-day window to continue their nefarious machinations.  Here are some folks who are scamming the scammers.  Excerpt:

The extension of the filing deadline not only gives taxpayers three extra months, but also provides scammers with an extra 90 days of prime-time flim-flam.  In a normal year, some 61% of tax scams are reported between January and April, according to the Better Business Bureau. All told, the IRS has logged more than 736,000 scam “contacts” since 2013, costing taxpayers some $23 million. The number is likely much higher since many cases go unreported.

In addition to robocalls, scam methods include fake IRS letterheads and addresses, emails and outright demands to pay taxes not owed. In each case, the operators are looking for quick cash or vital personal financial information. They employ “phishing” techniques to get victims to reply with Social Security or bank account numbers. Then can use that information to open up credit cards or sell it to other thieves.

How do scamsters acquire personal information and what do they do with it once they get their hands on it? Tyler Carbone, chief strategy officer of Terbium Labs, a digital risk protection firm, says one of the most prevalent ways to steal personal information is through W-2s, the basic tax forms employers use.

And:

When immediate payment is demanded, though, thieves often tell victims that they need to send them gift cards or single-use debit cards. “Older folks tend to be the biggest targets, especially those on Social Security,” Lavelle said.

“It’s definitely an ongoing game of cat and mouse,” Carbone concludes. “Law-enforcement, both U.S. and international, are constantly trying to identify the hosts of these sites. That’s why we need to take an automated approach to finding and crawling these sites, as existing markets are shut down by law-enforcement, and new ones emerge.”

Here’s the bright bit, though; there are folks out there who are scamming the scammers, and that’s pretty damn funny.

There are, of course, all kinds of scammers out there.  They tend to prey on the young and old; one of our daughters got a call from one of the IRS scammers, and fortunately was savvy enough to know that the IRS never calls people and says “we are sending the police to your location.”

The Old Man once got one of those “this is your granddaughter, I’m in trouble and I need money!” calls.  He told me about it cheerfully; he responded to the caller by asking “What’s your name?”

“Don’t you recognize my voice, Grandpa?”

“No.  What’s your name?”  Silence.  The Old Man hung up.

There can be no doubt that these phone scammers are the worst sort of scum.  The problem is, most of them are the worst sort of scum that are in parts of the world (eastern Europe, Pakistan and, yes, China) that can’t or won’t be arsed to track them down and extradite them to the U.S. for prosecution.

So, what to do?

I honestly think one of the better answers is folks like the guy who runs the Scammer Payback YouTube channel linked above.  He’s visiting some small but annoying justice on the scammers, entertaining his viewers, and letting the scammers know that there is a risk of being back-hacked and having their information messed with.  That’s worth doing.

Other than that, I’m afraid this is a hazard we have to live with.  Not every problem has an easy solution.  Be aware, True Believers, and be informed.  That’s the best defense.