PROOS: Be alert for phone, text message scams

Scam artists are becoming bolder in their demands and cleverer in disguising who they are.

I urge all southwest Michigan taxpayers, especially targeted populations like our seniors, to look out for phone and text message scams this summer.

Cybercriminals continue to use tax scams that include impersonating state or federal tax officials, claiming residents owe taxes and demanding immediate payment.

The best way to protect yourself from these schemes is to never give out credit or debit card numbers or other sensitive information to anyone claiming to be from the IRS or the Department of Treasury. Both the IRS and Treasury will never ask for that information over the phone. 

In addition, Attorney General Bill Schuette recently announced a new consumer alert on “smishing.” Similar to email phishing scams, smishing is when a scammer sends text messages to consumers appearing to be from a trusted source — in an attempt to get consumers to respond with personal information or to click on links that install malware.

A common smishing tactic includes a text falsely warning about a problem with your account and asking for your information to correct it. Another tactic is a text pitching attractive offers like free gifts and trips.

To ensure that you do not become a victim of identity theft or download harmful malware, do not click on any links or provide any information if you receive a text from a suspicious number. Instead, you should report it, delete the text and block the number.

Many mobile carriers allow subscribers to report spam texts by forwarding them to 7726 free of charge. Consumers can also report smishing texts to the Federal Communications Commission online or by phone at (888) 225-5322.

I encourage all area residents to watch out for these scams and pass along this important information to their families.

JOHN PROOS, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties. 

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