Sheriff warns of tax scams circulating in the area

Marion County law enforcement officials are urging people to be careful of possible tax scams in the area.

The most recent series of calls involve individuals posing as IRS officials demanding immediate payment for alleged delinquent taxes, said Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft.

?I strongly encourage any?one who receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, and demanding money to immediately hang up,? he said.

As of Feb. 9, IRS officials reported more than 896,000 attempted scam calls and more than 5,000 claims of losses because of those calls topping more than $20 million.

Deception varies

Michael T. Devine, IRS?me?dia relations for Kansas, Illinois and Missouri, said these schemes can occur over the phone, in e?mails or through letters with authentic looking letterhead.

?(The scammers) try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal,? Devine said.

These scammers, posing as IRS agents, first targeted people who were viewed as the most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived im?mi???grants and those whose first language is not English.

?These criminals have expanded their net and are now targeting virtually anyone.

?In a new variation,? he said, ?scam?mers alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it seem like they are with the IRS or another agency such as the Department of Motor Ve??hi?cles.?

Often these individuals will use fake names, titles and badge numbers, Devine added.

?They also use online resources to get your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official,? he said.

?They even go as far as copying official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.?

Bold tactics

Even some of the more brazen scammers will provide their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where the victim can obtain a means of payment, such as a debit card, he said.

?And in another new variation of these scams,? Devine said, ?con artists may then provide an actual IRS address where the victim can mail a receipt for the payment?all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.?

In a recent press release, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said: ?Scam artists specialize in being deceptive and fooling people.

?The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra cautious and think twice before answering suspicious phone calls, emails or letters.?

A common setting

The most common theme with these tricks seems to be fear, Craft said.

Scammers try to scare people into reacting immediately without taking a moment to think through what is actually happening, he said.

Devine added that scam artists often threaten victims with police arrest, deportation, license revocation or other similarly unpleasant things.

?They may also leave urgent callback requests, sometimes through ?robo-calls,? via phone or email,? Devine said. ?The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your re?ply.?

Taxpayers should also remember the official IRS website is IRS.gov., he said.

Everyone is urged not to be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov., Devine said.

In addition, Craft explained that taxpayers should never provide personal information, financial or otherwise, to suspicious websites or strangers calling out of the blue.

Prevention

In an effort to educate taxpayers from being victims of tax scams, Devine offered the following information.

He said the IRS will never:

? demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

? Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

? Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without giving them the opportunity to ques?tion or appeal the amount they say someone owes.

? Require individuals to use a specific payment me?thod for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

? Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

?Taxpayers need to remain on high alert,? Devine said, ?and protect themselves against the ever-evolving array of deceitful tactics scammers use to trick people.?

These scams are being investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Craft said, and they are having some limited success in arresting and prosecuting for these scams.

?But these scams do continue,? he said.

Taxpayers who owe or think they might owe federal taxes should hang up and call the IRS?at 800-829-1040, he said.

In addition to the IRS?scams, there are other unrelated scams to include lottery winnings, debt relief or inheritance from a previously unknown family member or friend, encouraging someone to send money, Craft said.

?Please protect yourself and your finances by not responding to unsolicited calls, texts, emails or mail offering unexpected financial gain without first verifying the legitimacy of the claim or offer with your local law enforcement agency,? he said.

A public service announcement is also available on the TIGTA website at: treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml or by calling 800-366-4484 to report a call.