By Karen Keefe
Special to the Dispatch
If someone calls you saying they're from the IRS and demanding money to resolve a tax debt, don't believe it. "It's 100 percent scam," said Capt. Gregory Savage, head of the detectives bureau for the Erie County Sheriff's Department.
Two Island residents reported receiving such calls, one via landline and one on a cell phone. When you call back the number, the caller hands up, one woman told us.
Another resident told us the caller said he was "Officer Mike Adam." But she had her doubts and called the Island Dispatch to report it.
Savage said, "it's unbelievable" how many reports he receives about phone scammers trying to get your money. Although it may seem there are more such fraudulent calls during the holiday season, he said, "It actually goes on all year."
"No one from the IRS or law enforcement will call you and demand payment for something to go away," such as a warrant or a tax debt, Savage said. "It doesn't work that way." He said the IRS will write you if there is a problem, or you can contact them directly through local IRS phone numbers if you have a question.
"Honest people fall for it," Savage said. When they realize they've been targeted in a fraud, they call the police to report it.
He said recent scams involve a caller asking people to pay a debt with a certain type of pre-paid credit card or money transfer.
"Last year we were waiting for them," Savage said. Detectives tried to track down the scammers by arranging meetings, but the callers never showed.
He said the perpetrators will use burner phones to place the calls and often target the elderly. As soon as the situation gets hot, they ditch the phones, he said. They ask you to give credit card numbers over the phone and try to make you believe they are from a government or police agency, Savage said. Once they get your payment information, they've achieved their objective - your money.
"They'll say they're from the Sheriff's Department and 'come down to 10 Delaware Ave.," but they never intend to meet you in person.
"With voice-over IPs, you can spoof any phone number you want," Savage said. "There's virtually no way to trace the call," he said. "There's not much we can do."
When he receives such calls, he has a tactic of his own. "I like to run these people around and waste their time," he said.
But whatever you do to put off the scammers, Savage's advises not to give callers any payment information or credit card number over the phone.