SALEM — Scammers are targeting older local residents, police said, posing as IRS employees.
Over the past few days, Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said, his department has received numerous complaints.
One Salem resident lost more than $10,000 to scammers, he said. Detectives are investigating that case.
Here’s how it works: A man or woman calls up and tells the resident they have underpaid their taxes for several years. The caller also claims the IRS has sent the individual letters via certified mail that have not been answered,
The potential victim is told he or she owes the IRS money, usually thousands of dollars, Patten said.
If that’s not enough to frighten the recipient of such a call, Patten said the scammers then say the sheriff is on the way to arrest the person if they don’t immediately pay up.
The person receiving the call is told to go to Home Depot to buy Green Dot Visa cards, prepaid credit cards. The caller stays on the phone with the individual while they go to buy the cards.
Once the Visa cards have been purchased, the scammer asks for the card numbers. Once the victim provides those numbers, the scammer transfers the money into an account, believed to be overseas, Patten said. The money is gone.
If the scam works, he said, the scammers often call the same victim again and try to get more money.
The calls come from a 202 area code and the callers have heavy accents, he said.
The IRS offers some tips on its website.
If someone calls claiming to be from the IRS, claiming the individual called owes back taxes, hang up. Then call the IRS.
The IRS usually contacts taxpayers by mail first, not by phone. The IRS doesn’t ask for pre-paid credit cards nor for a credit card number over the phone.
The IRS doesn’t request personal or financial information via email, text message or other social media network. The IRS also never asks for a PIN, password, credit card or personal banking information.
Call the IRS at (800) 829-1040.