Call to action against scammers

What is it about Americans that makes us (multiple choice):

A. Gullible.

B. Trusting.

C. Targetable.

D. All of the above.

Well, it’s all of the above, we suppose, and the latest evidence of that is the warning from Attorney General Joseph A. Foster about fraudulent telephone calls from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service demand­ing payment for supposed past due tax­es.

The problem is, we’re falling for this scam that seems to have roots in India, where police recently arrested 70 people at call centers that were believed to be bringing in $150,000 a day – that’s a day – from Americans, according to National Public Radio.

We can only wonder why those Nigerian princes aren’t still asking us for help in getting their millions out of the country, a share of which they’ll give to us, but first they need us to "lend" them some money, so please, nice American, just give them your credit card number and be prepared for Nigerian prince riches to come your way.

We fell for that one, too.

But you’d think we would have learned from that.

Look, here’s a basic rule of thumb: The Internal Revenue Service does not phone you with the news that you owe taxes. Never. Nor does the IRS send out emails asking for personal or financial infor­mation. Oh, you want my Social Security number, you trustworthy IRS official? Why, certainly. I know I can trust you be­cause all IRS agents have rather distinc­tive accents.

Dear readers, if the Internal Revenue Service wants something from you, they are going to send you a letter. That is a letter you most certainly don’t want, so it’s best to be sure you pay your taxes each year, which, of course, the vast, vast majority of Americans do. We are not only gullible, trusting and targetable, but we are basically honest, and we also understand the need to fund the govern­ment, even if we agree that much of gov­ernment wallows in the pit of wasteful spending.

Still, we pay.

And that is what makes us such tempt­ing targets for the charming crooks from overseas: We pay because we believe we have an obligation to pay and we don’t like the idea of not having paid, so when some con artist informs us that we are delinquent, we pony up the credit card number.

Do not do it.

If you get a call from the IRS or from your credit card company or from your bank – if you get a call from any institu­tion with some official designation – do nothing until you have checked it out.

Your credit card company wants a check immediately? Made out to cash? Or to Prince Obi? Tell the caller you’ll phone him/her back after you call the 800 number on the back of your credit card. Same with the bank and the IRS.

Always check before you send a check or, worse, give out your Social Security number or credit card number.

We are a basically honest people, and that can sometimes be our undoing. The world is filled with scam artists, and they know whom to scam: They have met the trusting, and it is us.

Be a little skeptical. Better, be a lot skeptical.