No one likes paying taxes, but the only thing worse than paying taxes is getting caught not paying taxes. Many consumers fear being audited by the IRS, and recently, scammers have been using those fears to prey on members of a Virginia community.
How does this new tax scam work? Victims got calls from fake IRS agents, who told they owe back taxes and that they face arrest if they don’t pay up immediately. What’s worse is that the scammers even impersonated a Virginia Beach police chief to bully their victims.
Let’s find out more about this new phone-based tax scam:
Not Your Average Telemarketing Scam
The story we know about seems limited to Virginia Beach, VA, but it’s the sort of scam that could happen anywhere.
The suspects used a telemarketing service, and phone-number spoofing, to make it appear that their calls originated in Washington, D.C.’s 202 area code.
Victims were told to pay up immediately or face arrest. If they didn’t comply, the suspects said a member of the local police would be calling them soon.
On at least one occasion, a victim received a call from someone claiming to be James Cavera, the Virginia Beach Police Chief.
Impersonating an officer of the law certainly raised the ire of the actual police chief, according to WAVY:
It bothers me that someone is using my name and they’re using the number of the police department, which means our credibility is at risk… I want to make sure the citizens understand this has nothing to do with the police department and please do not fall for this scam. The minute someone calls and says James Cervera, if you know me, I go by Jim.
Victims’ Fear Blinded Them to Red Flags of a Scam
Apparently the scammers were counting on their victims being too flustered by the idea of being singled out by the IRS to think clearly because a number of details of their scam don’t add up.
Aside from not doing their homework regarding the real name of the police chief, the suspected scammers asked their victims to purchase a prepaid credit card to pay for the back taxes they allegedly owed.
They were then supposed to provide this card, and its PIN, to a local agent so that they could withdraw the money.
The IRS has gotten a bit more high-tech and flexible with its payment methods in recent years, but physically handing over a pre-paid credit card is not one of the approved payment methods — especially when you’re asked to hand it over to an unsolicited caller who’s threatening you with arrest.
And, of course, if the IRS does want to contact someone, they have no shortage of numbered forms they use for that purpose. Phone calls and quickly calling in the cops aren’t their style.
Knowing Your Rights the Best Defense
If a government official (or someone pretending to be one), contacts you, it’s good to know your rights:
- Ask for ID: People who legitimately work for any government agency — IRS or police — should be able to produce identification. If they can’t, don’t talk to them until you can verify their identity.
- Learn Your Rights as a Taxpayer: People who do owe back taxes have rights, which are published on the IRS website. The people running this scam were violating pretty much all of them.
If you find yourself in a position where you believe someone is impersonating a government agent, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.
Tell us what you think about this scam in the comments.
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