IRS or Social Security calling? Hang up the phone

| 19 Feb 2020 | 11:25

    (AP) In these times of extreme political divides, there are still people willing to reach across the aisle to work together to send us urgent warnings to protect ourselves from scams.

    And thank goodness for that.

    Even in the midst of the Senate impeachment trial, as lawmakers were hurling insults at each other, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) were getting on with the people's business, organizing a bi-partisan hearing to warn about two scams that are bilking seniors out of their hard-earned life's savings. Collins is chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Casey is the ranking member.

    They've dubbed these attacks on seniors the “IRS and Social Security Scams'', and they joined hands to make sure the warning is being sent far and wide. Here it is:

    When someone calls claiming to be from the IRS or the Social Security Administration and asking you to do anything with your money, hang up the phone.

    That's right. The message from these good senators is that you should just hang up the phone.

    Trust us on this: The Social Security Administration will not call and threaten to arrest you because someone has stolen your id.

    The IRS will not demand you turn over your bank account number or insist you immediately send money to an account overseas.

    Neither the Social Security Administration nor the IRS will ever call you and tell you to go to Walmart and buy thousands of dollars in gift cards.

    And neither the IRS nor the Social Security Administration will ever tell you to keep everything secret and liquidate your bank account or face immediate imprisonment.

    “No one from the United States government will ever make these types of threats,'' Casey said.

    You may think you could never fall for this, but many very smart people have.

    “Anyone can be the victim of this kind of crime,'' Casey said.

    At the recent hearing streamed throughout the country, several rational, educated and level-headed people told horror stories of how they let their guard down and found themselves following the instructions of a phony Social Security agent.

    One poor woman transferred more than $100,000 to Hong Kong, losing her life's savings.

    These hucksters can be very convincing.

    The Social Security scam, as it is called, is now the number one way these phone thieves are stealing from seniors. And they know no shame. Sen. Collins' mother even got one of those calls, as did a staffer in Casey's office.

    Just expect them to call you or someone you love.

    Americans lost more than $38 million in 2019 alone after they answered the phone and were terrified into following instructions from a con artist. Casey and Collins believe the amount of money stolen from senior citizens may be even higher, because often people are too embarrassed to report they've been conned.

    “The scam always begins with an unsolicited robocall,'' Sen. Collins said. And the caller always emphasizes the need for urgent action, and for secrecy. They try to keep the person on the phone, following instructions, doing exactly as they say. Some people have stayed on the phone for hours, afraid they would be arrested and thrown into jail if they didn't obey.

    The good news is this. Once people are alerted, once they are warned about the scams, they hang up quickly.

    The IRS scam used to be number one, but after word got out, people knew what to watch out for and the number of victims dropped sharply.

    But now, the number of victims of the Social Security scam is rising. That's why it's important that we join the senators in sending out the warning.

    It is now urgent to increase public awareness about these scams, which means telling everyone, everywhere to watch out.

    Kudos to Casey and Collins for not letting the impeachment drama get in the way of protecting their constituents. Now, it's our turn to get the word out to family, friends and neighbors before these thieves claim another victim.

    Tell them this: If anyone calls claiming to be from the IRS or Social Security, don't waste a second and don't even blink.

    Just hang up the phone.

    Harrisburg Patriot News/