COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Authorities are asking the public to beware of an Internal Revenue Service telephone scam targeting taxpayers.
Tax season is underway and CCSO is receiving an average of 10 calls a day to its “Call Before You Pay” hotline from residents who said they received a phone call telling them they owe back taxes that must be paid immediately, said Sgt. Brian Sawyer of the CCSO Fraud Section.
“If someone falls victim to this crime, it’s almost impossible to recoup your money or identification,” said Sgt. Sawyer, noting that in most cases the suspects exist in foreign jurisdictions.
The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration has said this is the largest IRS-related scam the agency has ever encountered, with victims collectively paying more than $5 million in 2014.
The scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling and threaten potential victims with arrest or revocation of their driver’s license or facing arrest. Victims are often coerced into providing credit/debit card numbers or some other form of immediate payment.
CCSO reminds people that the IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail.
The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what the IRS advises you should do:
*If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
*If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes, then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
*If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCSO encourages residents to be vigilant against phone and e-mail scams. For assistance with any suspicious encounter involving a request for money or personal information, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s Call Before You “Pay” hotline at 239-252-CALL (2255). The hotline is staffed by a CCSO deputy in the Financial Crimes Bureau between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In addition, during the tax filing time window between January-April 15, there may be an increase of identity theft reports due to someone fraudulently filing a tax return under your stolen Social Security number in order to obtain your refund money.
Whether you file a return by yourself or use a certified public accountant, it is a strong indication you are the victim of identity theft if you receive a notification that your refund has already been submitted or is currently processing.
Investigators advise the best way to avoid being a victim of this crime is by filing as early as possible to prevent someone else from doing it on your behalf.
If this occurs, CCSO advises victims to get in touch with local law enforcement immediately to file a report. Collier residents can file reports by calling CCSO’s non-emergency line at (239) 252-9300 or submitting an identity theft report online through www.colliersheriff.org and click on “Report A Crime Online” option under the “How Do I?” tab.