MOULTRIE — Anyone who receives a phone call from someone who demands a tax payment and, when refused, yells obscenities or threatens arrest is not dealing with an IRS employee.
The calls have become an annual occurrence across the country, along with other scams and attempts by crooks to gather taxpayers’ personal information.
Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Richard Harris said he has fielded a number of calls in recent days from residents who have been contacted by phone by people purporting to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service.
“If the IRS has a problem with you, they’re going to send you a nice letter and you’re going to know it’s from the IRS,” Harris said. “They’re not going to call you. It’s going to be something in writing. They (callers) get real nasty. The IRS doesn’t do that, either.”
Harris said that most of the people contacting him have been elderly. All of them picked up on the scam and none sent money.
“There are elderly people who wouldn’t think anything about it and say: ‘Oh, my, I owe the IRS,’” he said. “Don’t fall for these calls, because they will take you for a ride.”
The IRS also does not send emails to notify taxpayers of potential tax issues. And it does not sent emails or make phone calls seeking information from taxpayers.
The agency earlier this year identified phishing -- attempts to obtain money, financial information or personal information -- whether through phone calls or the Internet, as the top scam taxpayers are facing so far through the tax season. The phone calls seemed to be increasing in late January.
The scam is not a new one. In recent years Latinos in Colquitt County were targeted by callers who demanded payment by the end of the day, and in some cases threatened to send immigration agents to their homes if they did not immediately send money.
While most people are familiar with tax scams through print and television media reports, not everyone has gotten the message, Harris said.
“I’ve had several calls today of folks who got a call saying you owe the IRS $2,845 (for example) and we’re going to sent someone to collect it,” he said. “The IRS doesn’t call; they send letters.”
The IRS announced last month the continuation of a pilot program adding another layer of identify confirmation that last year was made available to taxpayers in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia. They were chosen because they have high levels of tax-related identity theft.
Taxpayers in those locations are eligible for a six-number PIN number that must be included with returns or else the agency will not process them. Those who join the program will receive a new identification number each year.