Sheriff warns of IRS scam making rounds

Published 10:31 am Monday, August 15, 2016

Amazi

Amazi

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi was at home about a year ago when she received a phone call warning her the sheriff was going to arrest her if she didn’t pay taxes owed to the IRS.

“I started laughing,” Amazi admitted.

Amazi knew right away it was a scam, but when the woman on the other line insisted this was serious business, the sheriff got down to business too.

“Then I had some fun with her,” Amazi said.

Amazi strung the scammer on for a bit, which proved beneficial in helping her learn about the scammers’ tactics. That’s because scammers claiming to be the IRS have been widespread across Mower County and Minnesota, prompting Amazi to warn residents to hang up whenever someone calls demanding money or personal information over the phone.

“It’s very frequent,” Amazi said.

Though her own incident happened about a year ago, the scammers haven’t stopped. Amazi said she’s heard of more than 100 such incidents in the county. Though most know to hang up, Amazi warned the callers take an aggressive approach.

From her own experience, Amazi said the scam callers put on a good front, but she urged people to just hang up.

“They’re very persistent and they do sound threatening,” Amazi said. “They’re obviously very good at scamming people.”

Scammers claiming to be the IRS are common. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal money and people’s identity. The sheriff warned residents to be wary of out-of-the-blue phone calls or automated messages claiming to be from the IRS.

The callers may claim someone owes money and must pay right away, or they’ll say a person is owed a refund and ask for a bank account information over the phone.

In either incident, the message is the same: Don’t fall for it.

“Just be wary, be very careful,” Amazi said. “Do not ever give any information over the phone.”

With the information Amazi got from the caller, she was able to find out the scammers were using the actual address of the IRS but with a prepaid cell phone routed through San Bernardino, California. But the number has since been disconnected.

Tracking the true source of the calls is very difficult. Amazi noted that with technology, the callers could be from overseas working through numbers routed through the U.S.

“We’ll never get your money back for you,” she said. “So if you do this we will not be able to get it back.”

But it’s not just Mower County, as sheriffs across Minnesota have warned against the scam. And the scams take many forms too. Other scam calls claim an individual was chosen for jury duty or is going to be fined for missing jury duty, but they claim a resident can pay to avoid a fine or to get out of jury duty.

Legitimate issues involving things like the IRS and jury duty won’t come through phone calls. IRS issue and things like jury duty will be handled through the mail.

And despite threats of arrest, the sheriff will not show up on your doorstep for IRS tax issues, Amazi assured.

“We don’t arrest people on back taxes,” Amazi said.

“That’s not going to happen — and hang up,” she added.

Tips that will help you avoid becoming a scam victim

The real IRS will NOT:

•Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.

•Demand tax payment and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.

•Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For example, demand that you pay with a prepaid debit card.

•Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

•Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest you without paying.

•Threaten you with a lawsuit.

If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:

•Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident. You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.

If you think you may owe taxes:

•You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.

If you think you may owe taxes:

•Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number .

•Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you.

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. They often· use fake refunds, phony tax bills, or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial Information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:

•Don’t reply to the message.

•Don’t give out your personal or financial information.

•Forward the email to phishing@lrs.gov. Then delete it.