The Polk County Sheriff's Office is seeing an increase in telephone scams in Polk County where the caller identifies himself as a "tax crime investigator" and threatens bodily harm if the victims don't pay up. In one recent case, the scam artist told the victim that he would come to her house and kidnap her if she didn't pay money she "owed" to the IRS. The 92-year-old woman paid out $8000 before reporting it to PCSO.
"We want to remind residents to treat any call where someone threatens you or demands money as suspicious, and to immediately report it to law enforcement. Get as much information about the caller as you can so that we can investigate it. If you have elderly relatives, ensure they are aware of scams like these. NEVER send money to someone you do not know." - Sheriff Grady Judd
Telephone scams aren't new, and they change and evolve over time. Earlier this year, the IRS sent out a list of one dozen common scams. Some of that information is included below:
From the IRS website (http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml/):
IRS Releases the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014; Identity Theft, Phone Scams Lead List
IR-2014-16, Feb. 19, 2014
"Pervasive Telephone Scams
The IRS has seen a recent increase in local phone scams across the country, with callers pretending to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims.
These phone scams include many variations, ranging from instances from where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund. Some calls can threaten arrest and threaten a driver’s license revocation. Sometimes these calls are paired with follow-up calls from people saying they are from the local police department or the state motor vehicle department.
Characteristics of these scams can include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
- Scammers “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
After threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
In another variation, one sophisticated phone scam has targeted taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do: If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
If you’ve been targeted by these scams, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint."
Please be reminded:
· Never give personal information to a stranger.
· Be suspicious of phone calls from people attempting to collect a debt. Look up the phone number of the organization the caller claims to represent (not the number on the caller ID) and check on your account. Legitimate service providers do not accept payment via prepaid cards.
· Seniors are considered easy prey to thieves, help keep elderly family members protected and prepared by informing them about this type of scam.
· Contact Law Enforcement if you receive suspicious “debt collecting” calls.