The Smithfield Police Department is warning residents about scam phone calls claiming to come from the Internal Revenue Service.
The callers give a fake name and bogus IRS badge number, and they demand an immediate payment using a prepaid card or wire transfer, police Capt. R.K. Powell said.
The swindlers seek those specific forms of payment, Powell said, because law enforcement cannot trace them during an investigation.
“Once you give them money, you’re kind of out,” he said.
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Recipients of such calls should refuse to send money or give out personal information, Powell said. Doing so often causes the callers to become hostile and insulting, he said, and they may threaten the victim with arrest by local law enforcement, seizure of property and suspension of a business or driver’s license.
No genuine IRS employee would use these tactics, Powell said.
In addition to demanding payment for a bill to the IRS, Powell said the callers might try other methods to trick victims into revealing personal information. For instance, they might say the IRS wants to give the person a tax refund.
The telephone number 917-310-1313 has been used in the racket, Powell said, but residents should be wary of similar calls from any phone number. That’s because modern technology makes it possible for scammers to change their number on the fly and even spoof the numbers of legitimate organizations.
If no one answers, the callers sometimes leave urgent-sounding messages requesting a call back.
So far, Smithfield police have received just one report of the fraudulent IRS calls, Powell said, but the department wants the public to be on the lookout for the threat.
“It’s a big thing that’s going on in a lot of areas,” he said.
To avoid falling victim to the scam, bear in mind that the IRS will never:
▪ Demand payment over the phone or call without having first mailed a bill.
▪ Order payment without offering a chance to appeal the bill.
▪ Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
▪ Threaten to have local law enforcement arrest you for an unpaid bill.
▪ Require use of a specific payment method.
If you receive a suspicious phone call, do not divulge any personal information. Instead, hang up and report the call to Smithfield police at 919-934-2121.