Police warn residents about IRS phone scam

The Apache Junction Police Department is circulating a warning about a phone scam involving callers pretending to be with the Internal Revenue Service. The AJPD received the warning from the Scottsdale Police Department, Serene Carney, AJPD community resource coordinator, said during an e-mailed response to questions.

AJPD dispatchers have received received calls regarding the scam but they could not confirm how many because they do not take reports on these types of calls, Ms. Carney said.

The calls consist of the caller saying there is an outstanding tax debt that needs to be paid, adding a warrant for the person’s arrest will be issued if the debt is not paid immediately, according to a press release.

On some occasions the caller has personal information of the person they are calling, such as their name, date of birth and spouse’s name, according to the police. Reports in some cases state the caller has a European accent, possibly Slavic in origin, according to the release.

The callers have used several different numbers, including 323-647-2674 and 213-408-7026, according to the release.

The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report they have heard from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS, according to a press release from the IRS that the AJPD is distributing.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams, according to the IRS release.

“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:

•Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.

•Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations

•Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies, according to the IRS release.

Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy, according to the release.

Other characteristics of these scams 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 the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

•Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS e-mails 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 driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do, according to the IRS release:

•If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. 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 TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.

•If you’ve been targeted by this scam, 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.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and e-mail scams that use the IRS as a lure, according to its release. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts, according to its release.

Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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