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How to avoid this tricky tax scam voicemail
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Security & privacy

Get a voicemail about tax services? Don’t fall for the ‘Eavesdropping Scam’

Tax Day is nearing, and we hope you have everything in order by now or at least on your way there. Just because there’s a deadline doesn’t mean you should be scrambling to finish by then.

April 18 is not only the last day to file your taxes, but it’s also the deadline to claim your old tax refunds from 2018. The IRS says there are $1.5 billion in unclaimed funds, and hundreds of those dollars could be waiting for you. Tap or click here for our report and tips on claiming your refund.

Crooks never take a rest, but you’ll notice a rise in certain types of scams depending on the time of year. It’s no surprise that tax season is also tax scam season.

Getting personal

In an email to Komando.com, Seattle startup Hiya, which specializes in robocall-blocking algorithms and apps, detailed an “Eavesdropping Scam” making the rounds.

Here’s how the scam works: The robocall goes out to victims knowing they likely won’t answer (79% of unknown calls aren’t answered, according to Hiya). A voicemail is left in which the scammer is heard talking to someone else. They say something along the lines of “I’m trying to get ahold of them right now.”

The script is designed to pique your curiosity, being far removed from a recorded message about car warranties or the like. Without referring to any specific reason for calling, it seems less like a scam. The number also appears to be legitimate.

If you return the call, the scammer can take things further and offer fraudulent services such as tax relief. Hiya reports that U.S. consumers lost an average of $567 to phone scams last year. At its peak, the “Eavesdropping Scam” accounted for more than 30% of all calls monitored by Hiya.

RELATED: Delete your selfies from ID.me – You don’t need this to do your taxes

Hiya’s Adaptive AI detected the voicemail scam, which surfaced earlier this year, and was able to shut down the first wave by working with a third-party service provider. The company warns that the scam will come back as we get closer to Tax Day.

How to avoid falling victim

Some phone vigilance can go a long way to keep you safe from scammers. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t answer or return calls from unknown numbers. If it’s something important, the caller should identify themselves in the voicemail and why they’re calling.
  • Don’t ever provide any personal or financial information to unknown callers. If the caller says they’re representing a specific company, look up its information and call the company’s official number.
  • Report scam calls to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. This can help law enforcement catch the crooks.
  • If the caller gives a sense of urgency or pressure, it’s likely a scam. Hang up immediately.
  • Delete any fraudulent voicemails and block the phone number.
  • Register your number at donotcall.gov to block legitimate telemarketing calls. While it won’t stop scammers, it reduces the number of unwanted calls you receive.

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