Melrose Police Warn Public about IRS Phone and Email Scams

In Reality, the Police Department Will NEVER Call You, Threatening Arrest Over Unpaid Taxes

MELROSE — Police Chief Michael Lyle announces that the Melrose Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service are today warning consumers and residents about a sophisticated phone scam that has struck a number of residents in recent weeks.

Potential victims have called Melrose Police reporting that they received phone calls and were told by an “agent” that they owe money to the IRS and that they must pay immediately through a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The “agent” tells the victim that if they do not cooperate, they will be arrested, deported, or their business license or driver’s license would be suspended. The caller often intimidates the victim with hostility and insulting statements.

“These calls are nothing more than the work of scam artists attempting to coerce innocent citizens into handing over their hard-earned money,” Chief Lyle said. “The Police Department would never, ever threaten to arrest or deport anyone over unpaid taxes. Additionally, residents should be immediately suspicious of anyone asking for money via pre-paid debit cards or wire transfers.”

If a victim gives away a pre-paid debit card number or makes a wire transfer, the money is gone and lost forever. There is usually no way to recover those funds.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel, in a recent statement addressing the scam. “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.”

Werfel also noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via USPS mail.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Also, the Melrose Police Department urgently reminds residents to NEVER purchase pre-paid debit cards to give to a caller, and NEVER send a wire transfer to someone you do not know. Any money sent will be lost. 

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John Guilfoil is the Principal Owner of JGPR. Tweet @johnguilfoil or email him.

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