In the past few weeks, local citizens in Baker have reported receiving calls from, who they believed at first to be, the IRS asking them for personal information. In a few instances the caller threatened to take them to court if they didn’t pay a certain amount of dollars which they claimed was past due taxes.
By Sherry Vogel
One Baker resident was taken in by the personal info the caller shared about her. The caller stated the IRS would be taking her to court unless she paid her taxes from 2008-2013. She felt something was amiss so she responded that she would have to call her accountant. The caller immediately hung up. The caller ID showed a prefix from Oregon state.
This scenario has been repeated numerous times across the U.S. Scam artists have been around for a long time and their schemes have evolved into an array of deceitful tactics.
These schemes, which can occur over the phone, via email or through letters with authentic looking letterhead, try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal.
Scammers posing as IRS agents first targeted those they viewed as most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants, or those who speak English as a second language. These criminals have now expanded their net and are targeting virtually everyone.
The scammer has become so sophisticated that he can alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it appear that the call is from the IRS or another agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. They use false names, titles, and badge numbers.
They use online resources to get your personal information and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They even go so far as to copy official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.
They try to gain the trust of their victims by providing their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where they can obtain a means of payment such as a debit card. Another new variation of these scams – con artists may provide an actual IRS address where victims may email a receipt for the payment – all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.
The most common theme seems to be fear. Con artists try to scare people into reacting immediately without taking a moment to think through what is actually happening. These scam artists often make angry threats of 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. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your reply.
How does one identify a fictitious IRS website address? Remember, the official IRS website is: IRS.gov, sites ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov are fake. Taxpayers should never provide personal information, financial or otherwise, to suspicious websites or strangers calling out of the blue.
Be advised that the IRS will never:
1. Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone or call about a bill without first having mailed you a bill.
2. Threaten to bring in local police to have you arrested for not paying.
3. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
4. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
5. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. If you actually do owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you’ve been targeted by any scam, be sure to contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. Please add IRS telephone scam to your correspondence.
Local Chief of Police Mike Reddick welcomes area residents to notify the Baker Police Department with any concerns regarding suspicious phone calls or other communications that ask for personal information or demand money payments of a questionable nature.