No-Scam-Sign

I don’t think I know anyone who’d be excited to get a call from the IRS. But that being said, if I saw them ringing through on my caller ID, I would answer. I mean, wouldn’t you? A problem with our taxes is something we’re eager to get mopped up quickly because we’re all aware that the repercussions can be very serious.

Well that’s exactly the type of thinking being manipulated by one of the most pervasive phone scams of all time. If you’ve seen it in the news, then you know that the IRS Phone Scam has been going on nationally for about a year now, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have received over 90,000 complaints and identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. If you’re saying “Yikes” right about now, then we’re on the same page. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with this scam and explore how to avoid these IRS impostors.

We’ll start by going through the typical way these scam calls go down. The scammer will identify her or himself as an IRS agent with a generic American name like Julie Smith or John Parker. (My personal favorites are from the scammers who took a page out of Hollywood when they picked their pseudonyms—Steve Martin and Leo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” character Jack Dawson are real examples.) The scammer will report alleged charges against you including defrauding the government, money owed for back taxes, law suits pending against the recipient, and nonpayment of taxes. But it’ll all go away if you make an immediate payment via a prepaid money card or wire transfer.

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

The IRS never asks for immediate payment over the phone

If you protest, then that’s when the threats start piling on. “You’ll go to jail,” “This will cost you thousands in legal fees,” “We’ll freeze your bank accounts,” “You’ll be deported…” The list goes on, and the tone of these scammers turns abusive fast. And while all of this seems like it should be pretty obvious that this is a hoax, the scammers do a few things that have thrown their victims for a loop:

  • They rig caller ID to show an IRS number
  • They can rattle off the last 4 digits of your SSN
  • They know some of your other contact info and will follow up with an email or more phone calls

Long story short, these IRS scammers are a real pain in the rear, but I’ve got a few tips that will keep you outsmarting them at every turn.

  1. The IRS almost never calls people about back taxes, they’d send you something in the mail.
  2. The IRS would never ask for immediate payment over the phone.
  3. The IRS would not call after normal office hours nor would they get abusive on the phone.
  4. Get yourself a caller ID service that offers spam score. Whitepages Current Caller ID shows an alert on your phone when an incoming call is suspected of spam.
  5. Perform a Reverse Phone Lookup if you’re feel something suspicious happening. Whitepages encourages its users to be a force in fighting spam. We have a field on every number’s page where you can leave a comment to report the number as spam.

Hopefully you won’t ever have to deal with one of these IRS scammers, but if you do, you’ll know how to handle them. And don’t forget to send the IRS a tip about them. File a complaint about an IRS scammer using the FTC Complaint Assistant.

 

We’ve got exciting news about our Android app Whitepages Current Caller ID. Say hello to our latest feature, Spam Score.

Here’s how it works. When an incoming call is suspected spam, users will be notified immediately. Then when they open the app, they will see important tidbits like the spam level based on a score of 0-10, the amount of spam reports made on the number in the last 90 days, and comments written by other Whitepages users. In addition to that, we’re also empowering Whitepages Caller ID users to warn other members of the community by leaving their own spam reports on numbers that turn out to be scammers or fraudsters. It’s an easy-to-use system that helps build a community of people who care about personal privacy and want to do a good deed in the process.

current_spam_screen (2)

At Whitepages, we worked hard to develop the most advanced spam identification system in the market. Whitepages Caller ID offers real-time analysis on billions of calls, texts and phone lookups from all of Whitepages’ 50 million users. Along with Spam Score, Whitepages Caller ID also blocks unwanted numbers from calling your Android. It’s just another way that Whitepages helps you maintain your privacy.

And in today’s world, features that put privacy back in the hands of users are more important than ever. Recent data from Whitepages Caller ID shows that approximately one out of three unknown calls are a suspected spammer. Whether that’s a marketing or sales call, or something more pervasive like the scams that emerged earlier this year, such as “One Ring,” “Grandparent’s Scam,” and the most recent “IRS Phone Scam.” By offering another layer of information on incoming calls, Whitepages Caller ID protects users and lets them know about potential spam before they take the call—and that’s something we feel pretty good about.

Check out the latest release of Whitepages Caller ID in the Google Play Store and read more about it in PandoDaily.

 

 

Whitepages staffers at Grace Hopper Conference #GHC14

Whitepages staffers at Grace Hopper Conference #GHC2014

This past week I attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Arizona along with some of my fellow female coworkers from Whitepages. At the conference, I met women (and a few men) from all over the world, listened to technical speakers, participated in career workshops, and learned about some of the challenges women face in the technology field—those include the gender gap, unconscious bias and the imposter syndrome.

One of my favorite talks was by Lorrie Faith Cranor, director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory as well as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Cranor spoke on her research for creating secure and usable passwords.

Friday night we had dinner with a group of attendees from Time, Inc. We reflected on the conference, chatted about our experiences in the technology industry and shared our personal interests—so great to meet other women in the tech field!

But there was one particular point stressed throughout the conference that turned out to be one of my main takeaways: the importance of mentors and sponsors in your career. Mentors provide knowledge and guidance when you need it, while sponsors advocate and promote you within the company. And last but certainly not least, the GHC was a great chance for me to bond with my fellow female Whitepages engineers!

If you are interested in hearing more about women in computing, there are some interesting documentaries coming out soon on the topic of women in technology. Be sure to check out Girls Rising, Big Dream, and Code – Debugging the Gender Gap.

 

 

 

1950s housewife on phone

Ever wonder how the ten-digit phone number came to be? In the US and Canada, a phone number consists of three parts: a three-digit area code, a three-digit exchange number and a four-digit station number. Before mobile phones, the area code told you the broader location of the caller, the three-digit exchange number honed in on a more precise location, and the four-digit station number was an unique identifier within the given area and exchange. If you wanted to dial someone local, you could just dial the seven-digit number without entering the area code. Has anyone else ever noticed that the Tommy Tutone song, 867-5309/Jenny, doesn’t have an area code?

Then came the age of mobile phones, Skype and VoIP technologies. Suddenly phone numbers were no longer tied to location and the amount of phone numbers increased as mobile phones came to be associated with a single individual rather than a household. The heightened demand for mobile phones necessitated the creation of new area codes. That rocked the boat a bit because some people associated their identity with having a particular area code. In Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw receives a new phone with a 347 area code and she protests, “No, I’m a 917 gal. Always have been.” But nowadays a ten-digit number is a necessity because people tend to stick with the same mobile number, even if they move. That means we can no longer accurately infer location from their area code.

As technology continues to progress, the ten-digit number will evolve from conveying a vague sense of location to what it really represents: the identity of the user.  Several companies, from start-ups to large wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, provide caller ID services.  In the future, we will just be able to type a name or click a photo, and the call or text will connect automatically. Dialing the ten-digit number will be a thing of the past.

 

No question, pets are part of one’s family – so much so, it seems there’s been an increase in giving the family pet a name that, in the past, has usually belonged exclusively to humans. Growing up, in fact, two of our dogs were named Rosie and Tammy.  And many pet owners say their pets have feelings and personalities just like humans (see “Grumpy Cat” and now “Surprised Cat”), so we decided to take an (unscientific) look at the trend of naming pets and see what’s, well, “Spot” on.

George
One of the most popular names for boys in the U.S., along with being the name of the future King of England, 1,330,568 people have this name, yet the peak year of popularity was 100 years ago. One of the most well known “Georges” in pop culture is George Costanza, from the TV show “Seinfeld”, but who can resist a cat named George?
Jack
Over half a million (541,388) people have this name,and one-third are kids under 12, so kids may meet as many pets as peers with this name.
Ginger
There are nearly 81,000 people named Ginger in the U.S., originally a nickname for a person with red hair, like the pooch here, but also a nickname for Virginia, which was Ginger Roger’s real name.
Harry
This name peaked in people popularity in 1913; but 333,442 people have this name, resurging in popularity in light of the “Harry Potter” books and movies.
Noble & Notable
There are other names that have an air of nobility and sophistication–while their human counterparts have memorable personas, like Rex, Duke and Earl:
Other notable names are Lily, a French bulldog who, her owner says, “doesn’t know she’s a dog”, along with Penny and Harper. Harper is a name that’s gained popularity with humans lately: Virtually all people with this name are under the age of 12.
So move over, Rover: Pet names are all in the family. Have you given your pets “people” names?