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News: 02/15/2015

Beware of IRS telephone scams



As the tax season approaches, telephone scams from con artists are increasing. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office warns you to be smart and stay safe from these thieves.

Local law enforcement agencies report that one of the more prevalent scams circulating today involves someone purportedly calling from the Internal Revenue Service. The caller requests money for faulty tax returns, and threatens civil and criminal sanctions should the funds not be delivered. District Attorney Jill Ravitch reports that she was the recipient of such a call. “I heard a voice threatening me with arrest and jail if I didn’t return the call regarding an IRS matter. If I was not aware of the scams occurring, I might have been fooled into responding. Unfortunately many in our community have responded, and have been victimized as a result.”

Simply stated, if the IRS calls, it’s a scam. Hang up the phone. Don’t return the message. The IRS will never call on the phone in this context. If they need to correspond they will always send notice by U.S. Mail. According to Treasury Inspector, the loss attributed to this scam to date nationwide is over $14 million.

The IRS scam is one of many fraudulent online and telephonic schemes. Criminals pose as utility company employees, law enforcement officials, DMV agents, bridge toll representatives and a wide array of “bill collectors.” Some present themselves as sweepstakes officials and work from a carefully designed and highly persuasive script designed to convince the victim that they have won money. All the victim has to do, they say, is pay up-front taxes or other fees to claim winnings.

Today’s technology offers predators amazing abilities to disguise phone numbers and make caller I.D. systems display information that appears legitimate. Unfortunately, in some cases, devastating financial losses are often times extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover. Prosecution of the offenders is very difficult because of the inability to track the callers’ location and identities.

Many Sonoma County citizens have taken excellent precautionary measures to protect themselves from the myriad of ways in which identity thieves strike. However, be mindful that others might fall prey, so be sure to share this warning. Statistics reveal that older citizens are clearly over-represented as victims. Take the time to talk to your friends and family, particularly grandparents and older friends, about this looming threat. Also, take the opportunity to read more about this criminal activity by visiting reliable websites such as www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud and www.consumer.ftc.gov where you can click on the “SCAM ALERT” icon. A great website to help protect seniors is www.ncpw.gov/resource-topics/scam-alert.



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