by Terry Duffy
Lewiston Police reported this week that area residents have become the latest victims of an IRS telephone scam that's been sweeping the country for months.
"These actually aren't scams that have been prevalent in Lewiston," said LPD Officer John Penzotti. He reported that, over past weeks, two residents fell victim to the scam ploy where callers claiming to represent the IRS employ threats and scare tactics to force payments of money supposedly owed to them.
"We've had five recent complaints," LPD Officer Jim Ullery added. The officers said that, in one instance, a woman paid $500 and, in another, a resident turned over $1,000.
"People are being threatened with calls from the IRS," Penzotti said. "There's been repeated calls. People are also being threatened with police action." He said the scammers are targeting people of all ages. "They're also telling residents, 'Don't tell (others) that I called you.' "
"The IRS would never call," Ullery said. "They send registered letters."
According to the IRS, these callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don't answer, they often leave an "urgent" callback request.
"These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. "We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business."
The IRS reminds residents that they can easily find out when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Below are five ploys the scammers often use that the IRS will not do. Any one of these is a telltale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
•Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the IRS call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
•Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
•Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
•Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
•Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here's what you should do:
•If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
•If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the treasury inspector general for tax administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
You can file a complaint at www.ftccomplaintassistant; choose "Other" and then "Imposter Scams." If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
The IRS closed by stressing it does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.
Penzotti closed by advising local residents to remain vigilant about suspicious calls, to try to obtain any information on the caller and, above all, do not respond to any threats or scare tactics by sending money. "Try to get some contact information from these people and give us a call," he said. "We will try to contact to see if it's legit."
Lewiston Police can be reached at 716-754-8477 or contact the IRS at the above links.