Smartphone

Phone scams involving callers pretending to be from the Social Security Administration could be increasing now during tax season, when residents are filing taxes.

The robotic phone calls, sometimes with caller-ID that fakes the real Social Security Administration, say the resident’s Social Security number has been suspended or compromised, and they should dial a certain number to talk to someone.

In some cases, the recorded voices threaten legal action or arrest warrants if the caller doesn’t release the information or money is not released to them over the phone, according to the real Social Security website.

Don’t give them any part of your Social Security number or any money, the Social Security Agency website said. Instead, hang up and call the SSA directly to confirm your information at 1-800-772-1213.

While local law enforcement officials report they have not received any reports of the scam in the Killeen area, Ofelia Miramontez of the Killeen Police Department urges area residents to be cautious.

“Personal information should never be released over the phone,” Miramontez agreed. “People can always ask for the caller’s name and number and advise them that they will call them back. If there is hesitation on the caller’s part, then it is a scam.”

The Internal Revenue Service website says tax scams target people — especially during tax season. Once people have filed their taxes, they tend to be on the lookout for a response from the IRS making them more easy targets, the website says.

The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media, according to their website. Instead, the IRS generally initiates contact through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

Occasionally for overdue taxes, an IRS representative may contact an individual in person, but they should show a government issued ID card with a telephone number for you to call to verify their identity, the IRS website says.

If an IRS employee contacts a taxpayer, they will not demand immediate payment, but direct you to make payments to the U.S. Treasury, according to the website.

More information for paying taxes can be found at irs.gov/payments.

Other scams

Other scams take advantage of a generous spirit as people are getting their tax returns and invite them to donate to fake charities, according to the IRS website.

While phone scams are hardly a new occurrence, a report from the Federal Trade Commission says more than 35,000 people reported the SSA scam and lost a total of $10 million in 2018, up from 3,200 people reporting the scam and losing $210,000 the year prior.

Suspicious calls claiming to be from the SSA can be reported to the office of the inspector general at 800-269-0271 or online at www.oig.ssa.gov/report.

Scams related to the IRS can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission on FTC.gov, noting “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Email IRS scams can be reported directly to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

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