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Hurricane resident fends off IRS scammers

By By Erin Beck
Staff writer

Hurricane resident Dan Cook is sure he doesn’t owe any taxes, so he knew the automated phone call he received more than week ago wasn’t actually from the Internal Revenue Service.

Many people across the country, including Cook, have received calls from scammers posing as the IRS, insisting that they owe taxes and that money needs to be sent right away.

“I knew it was a scam right off the bat,” Cook said of his call. “I know how it works. They don’t just call you up on the phone with a robo-call. The first thing they do is send you a letter. It says, ‘you owe taxes, how about sending a check?’”

After the robo-call, Cook received several calls in two days from people claiming to be from the IRS, who threatened him with criminal charges. He wasn’t fooled

“I asked him why he lowered himself to become a thief and robber by trying to scare people into giving them money,” Cook said. “He insisted they are the IRS. I asked him where my notification by mail, that is required by law, was and he said they sent one. He told me I needed to speak to his supervisor, who is apparently the ‘closer’ in this scam.”

Cook refused and hung up.

The caller then phoned three more times. After he let the last two calls go to his answering machine, he hasn’t heard from the scammers since.

But he wanted to warn others who may be receiving similar phone calls.

“I undoubtedly am not the first person they’ve tried to pull this scam on,” Cook said. “The IRS is probably flooded with reports. I know there are people that would hear IRS and tremble in their shoes and send the money.”

IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski confirmed similar scams are prevalent throughout the country — and the scammers are often hostile, in an attempt to intimidate their targets.

“The IRS doesn’t make threatening phone calls,” Dobzinski said. “And if people do owe the IRS money, they are usually aware of that.”

IRS employees would also not ask taxpayers to wire money, or to provide credit or debit card numbers over the telephone.

The IRS has been aware of the scams since last October, Dobzinski said. Since, the IRS has compiled some of the tactics scammers are commonly using.

Scammers have been known to threaten victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, then hang up and call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, Dobzinski said.

In some cases, scammers have targeted immigrants and threatened to have the target deported.

There have also been reports of scammers knowing the last four digits of the target’s social security number.

In some cases, the IRS phone number can even appear on the target’s caller ID.

If a taxpayer does owe money and doesn’t pay, the case can eventually get turned over to collections and the taxpayer could receive phone calls, Dobzinski said.

But the taxpayer would receive a series of notices before it got to that point.

Dobzinski recommended asking for the caller’s IRS badge number, then calling the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to confirm the agent’s legitimacy and find out if taxes are actually owed.

If people know they don’t owe taxes, they should call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

Dobzinski said targets should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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