A nationwide phone scam in which callers impersonate an Internal Revenue Service official then demand money and threaten to arrest their victims if they do not pay has reached Montgomery County.
A victim in the county was told his tax returns were being investigated and the legal process would be stopped if he sent a payment of over $7,000 in reloadable cash cards, according to the county. The victim sent more than $3,000 then went to a Safeway to buy another $4,000 in cash cards when a cashier and manager identified the scam and stopped him from buying more.
“We are extremely pleased and proud that our employees – Store Manager Mark Woodfield and employee Patricia Keller – played a vital role in preventing a customer from having several thousand dollars stolen from them,” Safeway Eastern Division President Brian Baer said. “We have provided extensive training to our retail team urging them to be vigilant in these situations. It is very satisfying to see our efforts being translated into a beneficial outcome on behalf of a valued customer.”
The county’s Office of Consumer Protection and Police Financial Crimes Section issued warnings about the scam on Sept. 22. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a warning about the calls in March after thousands of victims nationwide lost more than $1 million.
“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said. “The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming.”
According to TIGTA, the IRS will make first contact with a person who owes taxes by mail and will not ask for payment using pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers.
“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation. Taxpayers should remember that their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue.”
Many of the scam callers will use common names with fake IRS badge numbers, know the last four digits of an intended victim’s Social Security number, alter caller ID information to show the IRS is calling and send emails that appear to come from the IRS, according to TIGTA.
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” George said. “We want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals.”
Anyone who gets a call from someone posing as the IRS and demanding payment can report it to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.