There are so many ways a scammer or identity thief can get their hands on your data. Too often it’s a simple matter of purchasing or discovering your information from a previously stolen database, which is out of your control.

Unfortunately, criminals also work every single day to trick the public into supplying their information, and the methods they use never fail to surprise even the most seasoned privacy experts.

One newly reported avenue for identity theft is in the relay services that support the communication needs of hearing impaired individuals. These services work with an intermediary who takes a call and relays it in a way that serves the disabled individual’s needs. One commonly misunderstood aspect to this service is the intermediary at the relay service is not a monitor, censor, or any other type of interfering agent. It is not their job to intervene in communications that are unpleasant, profane, or even potentially a scam.

That’s why individuals who utilize relay services have to be extra vigilant about understanding how scammers can steal their information. According to a warning issued by the IRS, “Be aware that con artists will use video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Don’t become a victim. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals should avoid giving out personal and financial information to anyone they don’t know. Always confirm that the person requesting personal information is who they say they are…Do not automatically trust calls just because they are made through VRS. VRS interpreters don’t screen calls for validity.”

If you use a relay service, remember to treat every unknown person who contacts you as a potential scammer. That doesn’t mean you have to live in fear of answering your phone, just remember to be as cautious as any hearing person should. There are steps you can take if you think you may have already encountered a scammer:

1. If the person claims to be from the IRS, contact the agency immediately. The more the IRS knows about imposter scams, the more readily it can alert the public.

2. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC might not be able to get these people to stop calling, but they also track call statistics, alert law enforcement and the public, and can potentially catch and punish the bad guys from time to time.

3. If you shared information with a scammer, change your passwords on your online accounts and monitor your financial statements closely. You can request a free copy of your credit reports to look for unusual activity and place a freeze on your credit if the situation warrants.


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.