Be warned: tax season brings out the scammers

Tax season is here and it is a time of year that brings scam calls that attempt to take advantage of vulnerable and anxious taxpayers and trick them out of money or personal information.

Tax filing season begins Jan. 29 and local police chiefs offered some guidance on what to do about those types of calls that residents report. 

For example, a Cutchogue man said he recently received a message in a robotic female voice threatening he would be “taken under custody” and faced legal action if he did not respond with personal information. The man knew it was a scam, but wanted to warn others from falling victim to similar tricks by Internal Revenue Service posers.

“We take reports of phone scams from residents all year long on just about every possible angle to defraud people that you could imagine,” Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley. “But yes, we do get an influx of complaints around tax season because there is a heightened sense of anxiety where the IRS is involved.”

He said the simplest message he can give regarding such calls is to know the the IRS never uses the telephone to call for payments, no matter what actions are threatened by the caller.

While the police department would still like to be notified of these calls and can offer advice or document any new scams, Chief Flatley noted it can be difficult to trace the origin of some calls.

Both Chief Flatley and Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller said, ultimately, the best thing to do is hang up on any caller that claims to be associated with the IRS and is demanding payments. There’s no consequence for doing so, they said.

“People should never give out their credit card information or personal information over the phone,” Chief Hegermiller said.

The IRS warns consumers of unsolicited “urgent” callback requests that try to scare victims. Some use an altered caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling.

According to its website, the IRS will not call people to demand immediate payment or without first sending a bill in the mail. It will also not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phones or threaten to send the police after someone for not paying.

The calls can be random and received by people who don’t owe taxes. In that case, the IRS advises to hang up immediately and report the call to the Federal Trade Commission or IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage.

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