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IRS Scam surfaces in Gates County

GATESVILLE – The “IRS Scam” has surfaced in Gates County.

Sheriff Ed Webb said his office has been advised that several county citizens have reported receiving calls from an electronic message system that claims to be the Internal Revenue Service.

“We’re getting slammed with these types of calls here in our county,” Webb said. “A couple of our citizens have fallen for the scam. The message gives an option of paying a portion of what is claimed to be owed, or set up payment plan.

“This is not legit; I’ve talked with IRS….they will either send you a certified letter if there is money due, or they will schedule to meet with you face to face,” Webb added.

Webb said the scammers will attempt to scare people in paying by threatening legal action.

“That’s just a ploy to get you to pay,” he said.

Webb stated that County Commissioner Henry Jordan told him he has heard from a number of members of his church that they have received these types of phone calls.

The call apparently originates from either Jamaica or Canada. The number is 825-593-8944.

“If you receive such a call, report it to my office as well as to the Attorney General’s Scam Alert Line at 919-716-6000,” Webb said.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is aware of the scam.

“Scammers posing as tax collectors are using fear and deception to swindle thousands of dollars from North Carolinians,” Cooper said. “If you get a call saying you could be arrested if you don’t pay taxes right away, don’t fall for it.  Hang up the phone and report the call to us.”

The scam starts with a telephone call from someone who claims to be with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or U.S. Treasury Department, demanding payment for unpaid taxes and threatening arrest if the consumer doesn’t pay immediately.  In some cases, the scammers will call back posing as local law enforcement officers prepared to arrest the caller if the phony tax bill isn’t paid.  The scammers often manipulate Caller ID to make it look like the calls come from the real government agency they are impersonating.

Consumers who’ve gotten the calls report that they are told to pay via a reloadable debit card such as a Green Dot MoneyPak card.  Victims purchase the card, load it with funds and then call the phony tax collector back to provide the information needed to access the money.

A total of 1,043 consumers have reported these calls to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division last year, up from 39 reports in 2013. Of those, Cooper’s office has heard from 22 consumers and who have lost a combined total of $98,703 to the fraudulent calls. Another 12 consumers would have lost nearly $40,000 but called Cooper’s office for help before they followed through to pay the money.

To protect yourself, remember:

The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, require you to provide payment information over the phone, or demand that you use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card.

No legitimate tax collector will threaten to arrest you or send law enforcement officers to your home if you refuse to pay taxes over the telephone.

If you believe you may owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit your local IRS office.

Report the call to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a consumer complaint at www.ncdoj.gov. You can also report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

If you’ve fallen victim to the scam or are considering responding to one of these calls, call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Cooper’s office works with other states as well as local, federal and international law enforcement to try to locate and stop telemarketing fraud rings. Complaints made to the NC Attorney General’s Office about the fraudulent tax calls will be shared with federal law enforcement to aid investigations.

Reports from consumers who receive the calls or fall victim to them can provide helpful information to investigators, such as the phone numbers used by the scammers, the times and dates of calls, and any payment information provided by victims.

It’s especially important for victims to come forward, Cooper urged.  People who have paid money to a telephone scammer are at increased risk of future scams because telemarketing fraud rings often sell victims’ names and contact information to other criminals.

“These crooks can be very convincing, very clever, and very hard to catch,” Cooper said.  “That’s why it’s so important that we warn people about the calls, educate them not to fall for it, and encourage them to report it.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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