Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Benjamin Franklin’s famous axiom from 1789 still applies today if you add a third item: IRS con artists.
So much so, the IRS has even placed the threatening telephone calls by criminals on their list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the 2016 filing season.
“Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these. Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on the agency’s website.
“We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you’re not hearing from us.”
Gulfport residents are among those who have recently been receiving phone calls from people impersonating IRS agents.
“I just hang up,” said Lum Atkinson.
The first time it happened, he said he didn’t think about it being a scam. After the second call just a few hours later, he “tried for 30 to 40 minutes to get ahold of someone at the IRS. All I got was a recording.”
That’s when he called his personal income tax accountant to discuss the incident. The accountant confirmed it was not the IRS calling him and suggested he contact the police, Atkinson said.
This year’s filing deadline is Monday, April 18, but telephone scam artists can still call at any time.
“Most of the calls are hard to trace” as they come from all over the world, said Sgt. Thomas Woodman of the Gulfport Police Department. “They try to ask people to put money on a Green Dot card then mail it to them.”
According to the IRS website and the Gulfport Police Department, representatives of the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment or require you to use a specific payment method like a prepaid debit card. They will never ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone, or threaten to bring in law enforcement or deportation officers to arrest you for not paying your income tax debt.
The scammers, said Woodman, “try to keep you on the phone while you’re driving to Walgreen’s” to get a card.
“They would rattle anyone,” said Judith Le Doux, a Gulfport resident who received such a call. According to Le Doux, the man on the line said: “This is the IRS about your taxes. I’m calling to confirm your Social Security number.”
Le Doux says she didn’t fall for the scam, but that may not keep them from continuing to call.
Another Gulfport resident said she uses her answering machine to screen calls. Some of the recordings warned this is the “second notice” and that a “lawsuit is going to be filed.” She does not return the calls.
“Use common sense,” Woodman urged, adding that residents should “research the scams by reading the IRS website.”
According to Woodman, there is no need to contact local police if you receive a call, unless you fall victim and send money. However, for peace of mind, anyone can request a personal contact visit by a local law enforcement officer by calling 727-893-1030.
Said Woodman, in Gulfport, “we knock on doors.”
IRS links for more information: