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Scam 101: The IRS Gift Card Scam That Keeps on Giving


What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear, “Can you hear me now?” I’ll bet you think of the Verizon commercial. Unfortunately, those were the good old days. Today, the question has taken a nefarious turn—a new scam.

Before we launch into the scam, answer a question. Are you still answering phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize? If you answered, “Yes,” you could be the victim of a scam. Scammers target seniors because they think you’ll be slow to hear about their latest tactics, but increasingly, the joke is on the criminals as the word spreads and technology helps us avert their tactics.

How the Scam Works

  1. You receive a call from an unknown number.
  2. The caller asks, “Can you hear me,” or a similar question to which you will most likely answer, “Yes.” Other questions might include, but are not limited to:
    • Are you the homeowner?
    • Are you registered to vote?
    • Do you have a computer?
  3. The scammer records your answer. After you hang up, your “yes” is spliced at the end of a different question, such as, “Do you authorize payment for [fill in the blank]?”
  4. You receive a bill for some unknown charge, and you contest it.
  5. The creditor presents “evidence” that you authorized the charge, and it’s your voice.
  6. You are left to wonder, “How on earth did that happen?” as you pay the bill under duress.

According to CBS New York, voice signatures are considered verbal contracts.

Tips for Protecting Against Phone Scams

Resolve to change one die-hard habit from a simpler time. Don’t answer the phone unless you know the caller. If it’s an emergency, you’ll recognize the number or Caller ID will display the number of a doctor’s office, hospital, etc. A few more tips to keep you safe:

  • Don’t confirm your name, phone number, address—anything.
  • Don’t give out any personal information.
  • If the caller says they’re calling from a financial institution or any of your service providers, tell them you’ll call them back (but not at a number they provide), and then call only a number listed on a bill or statement, not a number the caller gives you.

To Report a Scam

The more reports received on a scam, the more likely it is that the media will pick it up and inform their audiences. File online reports with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau online to help keep other seniors informed.