Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

December 19, 2013

Scam alert: Fraudulent IRS calls reported

BLUEFIELD — Telephone scammers are at it again — just in time for the holidays. The latest scam involves a caller who pretends to work for the Internal Revenue Service and threatens residents with arrest or other punishment if they don’t pay a certain sum using a pre-paid debit card or money order. Unbelievable!

Residents across the state have reported receiving the call from the man who claims they owe back taxes and that they must pay immediately. The scammer threatens residents with arrest or other punishment if they don’t pay a certain sum using a pre-paid debit card or money order.

“These callers claim the person who answered the phone has unpaid taxes that must be paid immediately,” West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey said. “They use aggressive language and threaten everything from jail time to deportation to loss of a driver’s license or business license if the money isn’t paid immediately. This is a despicable scam that plays off of citizen’s fear and confusion about the IRS. Citizens need to know this isn’t how a federal agency works.”

 According to the Internal Revenue Service, the callers who commit this fraud often:

• Use common names and provide fake IRS badge numbers.

• Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.

• Make it appear as if the IRS is really calling.

• Send fake IRS emails to support their scam.

• Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV to support their claim.

“While scammers often use high pressure sales tactics to force consumers into bad decisions, the IRS will never make threats of violence or ask you to pay via pre-paid cards or wire transfer,” Morrisey adds. “The role of the IRS and collecting taxes that are owed can be a complicated and confusing issue for many people. Scammers will then play on that confusion and prey on vulnerable citizens to swindle them out of their hard-earned money.”

If someone claiming to be an IRS representative requesting payment contacts you, residents should immediately hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040, according to the attorney general’s office. If you owe taxes, IRS workers can help you get those resolved. If you are contacted by a fraudulent IRS representative, you can also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808.

Unfortunately, area law enforcement officials are seeing increasing numbers of scams in our region.

All area residents should be on alert for such fraudulent calls. Never give out personal information over the telephone if you can’t verify the validity of the caller. Get the number of the caller, hang up and contact your local law enforcement.

With your help, such scammers —  including the man claiming to be an IRS agent — can be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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