IRS warns of tax scam emerging in the Southeast

The IRS is now warning taxpayers of a “sophisticated” phone scam that has quickly hit the Southeast, though Aiken Public Safety has not received any reported incidents of the scam.

According to a recent press release, victims are told they owe money to the IRS and that it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license.

Taxpayers can possibly identify the scam through several characteristics. Clues include scammers using common names and surnames to identify themselves, spoofing the IRS toll-free number on caller ID, sending bogus IRS emails, victims hearing background noises of other calls falsely being conducted and scammers hanging up and someone else calling back pretending to be from the local police or DMV with the caller ID supporting their claim.

“This scam has recently hit taxpayers in the Southeast region,” said IRS spokesman Mark Green. “We encourage taxpayers to guard against being misled by unscrupulous individuals trying to persuade them to give out their Social Security numbers and personal financial information.”

Green added that the IRS does not, and will not, ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling,” he said. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.”

Locally, Aiken Public Safety officials have no reported incidents of the tax scam. Lt. Jake Mahoney said Public Safety still advises residents against providing any type of personal identifying information to anyone that they are not familiar with.

“Agents, officers and legitimate government officials will not ask for credit card or bank account numbers over the phone,” he said.

Mahoney added that if an individual has questions or concerns about the legitimacy of someone claiming to represent law enforcement, they can contact Aiken Public Safety at 803-642-7620.

Likewise, the IRS has also advised residents to call 800-829-1040 if they get a call and know they owe taxes. If residents don't owe taxes and still get a call, the IRS said they should report the incident at www.treasury.gov/tigta or by calling 800-366-4484.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.

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