A marketing company has acquired and is using two toll free numbers which are VERY SIMILAR to VBA (the VA’s Vetrerans’ Benefits Administration) toll free numbers. The marketer is trying to get callers to sign up to receive a Wal-Mart gift card, and is asking for PII (personal identifying information), to include credit card information. When asked if they are the VA, they reply vaguely, and explain that the VA is very busy and the call was directed to them. They don’t say they are the VA, but if asked if they can help with VA benefits, they say yes. In addition, they even offer to transfer the call to the VA, after the caller provides the credit card information to get the free Wal-Mart gift card. This issue has been reported to the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission for review.
Q1. WHAT SHOULD WE TELL A VETERAN IF HE/SHE ASKS IF THIS IS A LEGITIMATE OFFER?
A: “The VA is not participating in any gift card promotions. We have been advised of this situation and have referred the issue to our Office of the Inspector General and have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Please use caution when disclosing personal information as it could be a fraudulent situation.”
Q2. IS THE VA RESEARCHING THIS ISSUE OR ATTEMPTING TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE COMPANY?
A: “The VA has reported this issue to the Office of the Inspector General and filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They will be reviewing the situation to determine the appropriate course of action.”
Q3. WHAT SHOULD WE TELL SOMEONE IF THEY HAVE MISTAKENLY RELEASED THEIR PII IN THIS SITUATION?
A: “The VA has reported this issue to the Office of the Inspector General and filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They will be reviewing the situation to determine the appropriate course of action. If you feel you have disclosed your personal information to an unauthorized individual, please contact your credit card company and advise them of the situation, review transactions, and request that a new card number be issued. You may request a free credit report from credit reporting agencies. In addition, you should also contact the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 and file a complaint.”
Q4. I CALLED THIS COMPANY. HOW CAN I FILE A COMPLAINT?
A: “Thank you for reporting this information to VA, you can contact the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 and file a complaint.”
From the Internal Revenue Service
From the IRS through Pittsburgh-based IRS Taxpayer Representative Regis P. Bodnar posted 31 October 2013): IRS warns of pervasive phone scam
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. “This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.
Other characteristics of this scam include: Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number. Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling. Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls. Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue. If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint. Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS. The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to email@example.com. More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.
From Michael A. McBride, Director SPEC Headquarters Operations, Wage and Investment Division, through Pittsburgh-based IRS Taxpayer Representative Regis P. Bodnar(posted 04 June 2012):
“A few months ago I received information on this potential tax scheme and I referred it to the Identity Theft Team. The scheme involves individuals, including military members, military retirees, and civilian employees receiving an e-mail that appears to be from Defense Finance and Accounting Services, but it is actually from a non-government e-mail account. The e-mail indicates individuals receiving VA disability compensation can receive additional funds from the IRS by sending copies of their VA award letters, income tax return, 1099-Rs, Retiree Account Statements, and DD 214s to a retired colonel at an address in Florida. This can be costly for these taxpayers so we need to help mitigate the issue.”
From the Department of Veterans Affairs
(posted 02 December 2010):
“An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information on veterans. This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way. (Its web site is http://www.vaservices.org/us/index.html)
“VAS may be gaining access to military personnel through their close resemblance to the VA name and seal. Our Legal Counsel has requested that we coordinate with DOD to inform military installations, particularly mobilization sites, of this group and their lack of affiliation or endorsement by VA to provide any services. In addition, GC requests that if you have any examples of VAS acts that violate chapter 59 of Title 38 United States Code, such as VAS employees assisting veterans in the preparation and presentation of claims for benefits, please pass any additional information to Mr. Daugherty at the address below.”
Michael G. Daugherty
Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of General Counsel (022G2)
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
From the Department of Veterans Affairs via the Paralyzed Veterans of America (posted 08 September 2009):
The Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has received many reports that veterans are being contacted by “Patient Care Group” representing that they are helping administer VA prescriptions and stating that the pharmacy billing procedures have changed and they are therefore requesting veteran credit card numbers for prescription payments in advance of filling their prescriptions. This is false. VA does not call veterans asking to disclose personal financial information over the phone. The VA has not changed its processes for dispensing prescription medicines.
From the Small Business Administration via the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
SBA warns of fraudulent attempts to obtain bank account information from small businesses
Veterans should also be aware of similar personal scams
WASHINGTON, 18 February 2009 — The U.S. Small Business Administration issued a scam alert today to small businesses, warning them not to respond to letters falsely claiming to have been sent by the SBA asking for bank account information in order to qualify them for federal tax rebates. The fraudulent letters were sent out with what appears to be an SBA letterhead to small businesses across the country, advising recipients that they may be eligible for a tax rebate under the Economic Stimulus Act, and that SBA is assessing their eligibility for such a rebate. The letter asks the small business to provide the name of its bank and account number. These letters have not been sent by or authorized by the SBA, and all small businesses are strongly advised not to respond to them. The scheme is similar in many ways to e-mail scams often referred to as “phishing” that seek personal data and financial account information that enables another party to access and individual’s bank accounts or to engage in identity theft. The SBA is working with the SBA Office of Inspector General to investigate this matter. The Office of Inspector General asks that anyone who receives such a letter report it to the OIG Fraud Line at 1 (800) 767-0385, or e-mail at OIGHotline@sba.gov.
From the Internal Revenue Service
Unauthorized representation of claimants and unlawful solicitation of fees
WASHINGTON, 30 January 2008 — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to beware of several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure. The IRS expects such scams to continue through the end of tax return filing season and beyond. The IRS cautioned taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams involving proposed advance payment checks. Although the government has not yet enacted an economic stimulus package in which the IRS would provide advance payments, known informally as rebates to many Americans, a scam which uses the proposed rebates as bait has already cropped up. The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft. Typically, identity thieves use a victim’s personal and financial data to empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commit crimes. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronically from a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities in cyberspace allows scamsters to act quickly and cover their tracks before the victim becomes aware of the theft. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their reputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit.
Click here for details on these most recent scams brought to IRS attention:
- Rebate Phone Call
- Refund e-Mail
- Audit e-Mail
- Changes to Tax Law e-Mail
- Paper Check Phone Call
- What to Do
Anyone wishing to access the IRS Web site should initiate contact by typing the IRS.gov address into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail or opening an attachment.
Those who have received a questionable e-mail claiming to come from the IRS may forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to receive such e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org, using instructions contained in an article titled “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes.” Following the instructions will help the IRS track the suspicious e-mail to its origins and shut down the scam. Find the article by visiting IRS.gov and entering the words “suspicious e-mails” into the search box in the upper right corner of the front page.
Those who have received a questionable telephone call that claims to come from the IRS may also use the email@example.com mailbox to notify the IRS of the scam.
The IRS has issued previous warnings on scams that use the IRS to lure victims into believing the scam is legitimate. More information on identity theft, phishing and telephone scams using the IRS name, logo or spoofed (copied) Web site is available on this Web site. Enter the terms “phishing,” “identity theft” or “e-mail scams” into the search box in the upper right corner of the front page.