One common scam that targets individuals of various demographics is the “verification” scam, and it’s so prevalent simply because it works. A caller explains there’s an issue with your account or your profile, which is already alarming, but then says that for your safety and security they need you to verify your account information.

That sounds like a good idea, right? Of course not. The person is most likely not looking out for your security, but rather is sitting with a pen and paper, ready to write down all of the information you provide. Everything from account numbers to PIN numbers to Social Security numbers can be requested as “verification,” but those are highly sensitive pieces of data.

This scam often originates from a caller claiming to be from a credit card company. But there’s a little risk in doing so: if a caller claims there’s a problem with your Chase Visa account and you don’t actually have a Chase Visa, then you’ll know instantly that something is up.

Therefore, scammers have taken to using organizations that everyone has some connection with, namely, the IRS and the Social Security Administration. Both of those agencies also deal with your Social Security number, so it won’t seem so odd when they request that you verify it.

It can be hard to protect yourself and your identity when you’re faced with a “problem” with your taxes or your benefits, especially if there’s even a hint that you’re suspected of something illegal, but it’s important that you stop and think. Why is this person asking me to verify my information when they’re the ones who called me? Why do they need such sensitive information, rather than asking me to verify multiple smaller details like my address or my phone number?

One really scary aspect to this scam is that your phone can betray you, or at least it looks that way. Scammers can “spoof” a phone number so that your caller ID actually says something like “IRS” or “US Government.” That doesn’t make it any more real, though.

A good rule of thumb is to refuse to verify your identifying information or your account information, no matter who calls or why. Simply stated, “I don’t provide that information over the phone,” and hang up. Then, just to be on the safe side, contact the organization the caller claims to work for yourself, whether it’s your credit card company, your utility company, or even a government agency. Be sure to use a phone number that you’ve looked up for yourself, not a number that the caller provided, as that contact information could lead right back to another scammer.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.