IRS robo-calls target local residents

While we’d like to think it was an Aprils Fool’s Day prank, it wasn’t.  It was far more serious than that.

Friday morning, on April 1, a local resident was contacted by a robo-caller claiming to be with the IRS and stating that she not only owed the IRS a large sum of money, but there was also a warrant out for her and her assets, to the effect that her “property and assets were in grave danger.”  The resident was given instructions to call (206) 414-6243.

Knowing that it was a scam, she called the number just to see if an actual person would answer.  One did and immediately asked, “is the number you’re calling from your home number?”

When the resident stated that it was a borrowed cell phone, the scammer demanded the home phone number.  When the resident refused and asked the person if he/she even knew who was returning the call, the scammer angrily threatened to “call the cops” and hung up.  The scammer had no idea who belonged to which telephone number and was likely trying to do a bit of data-mining to add names to numbers, perhaps to make the next scam attempt sound more convincing.

It’s tax season and once again the scam artists are coming out of the woodwork like termites, impersonating IRS agents and looking for vulnerable people who can be browbeaten into handing over money or divulging sensitive personal and financial information.

Scam phone calls claiming to be from the IRS are nothing new; two years ago, the IRS released a statement, updated just a few months ago, addressing the ongoing issue of bogus phone calls and offering five tips for recognizing a bogus call.

Here are five common things a scammer will often do, that the IRS will not.  Any one of these should be considered a red flag.

The IRS will never:

Call to demand immediate payment, nor will it call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

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

If anyone receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here is what they should do:

If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1 (800) 829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1 (800) 366-4484 or at  www.tigta.gov.

You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistance at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

If you get a bogus phone call, don’t fall for it.  Report it.

And if you find yourself or a loved one a victim of this scam, or any other scam, please call the Madison Police Department at (850) 973-5077 or the Madison County Sheriff’s Department at (850) 973-4001.

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