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News Articles

IRS Phone Scam
05/27/2016
The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office continues to regularly receive reports of attempts being made to defraud citizens out of money, and Sheriff Barry Faile wants citizens to be aware. The schemes occur in a multitude of forms and are limited only by the imaginations of the scammers. Most occur by phone, but some are carried out through mail and electronic communication. Some targets recognize from the beginning that the attempts are bogus and lose no money, but a lot of folks are falling prey to these people. The losses are seldom small and usually total hundreds and thousands of dollars. The sheriff’s office urges citizens to be vigilant, ask questions, investigate, and research before you send some unknown person your hard earned money.

The Internal Revenue Service scam is currently popular. You might get a call from a person identifying himself as an agent of the IRS saying you owe back taxes and instructing you to send money to avoid being arrested. You might get a call from a person identifying himself as a law enforcement officer saying your relative has been arrested and instructing you to send money for bond so your relative can be released. You might get a call from a person saying you failed to appear for jury duty and instructing you to send money to pay a fine to avoid being arrested. Government agencies generally do not demand the payment of taxes, bond money, or fines by telephone.

Other schemes originate from purported businesses and private citizens. These are commonly carried out on the internet including social media sites. You might “meet” someone on the internet who seems like a nice person and whom you believe cares about you. Before long the person asks you for money for what might sound like a legitimate need – funding for a business project or simply help in a financial crisis. Recently a Lancaster County resident lost many thousands of dollars to an internet suitor who convinced her to send multiple wire transfers to help him finance an international construction project.

Payments of money for these schemes are requested in odd forms. Often the victims are asked to pay with prepaid credit cards, iTunes cards, Green Dot cards, or wire transfers. The caller will ask you to buy these cards and provide him the validation numbers on the backs of the cards. These requests should immediately alert you to the possibility of fraud. Legitimate governmental agencies and businesses do not collect money this way. You do not pay your power bill with an iTunes card, so you should not expect to be asked to pay a court fine that way, either.

If you are in trouble with the government over taxes or court fines, you will be contacted in a much more official way than a phone call. You will get correspondence on official letterhead which you can verify, or you will get a knock at your door by a real person with legitimate credentials. If you get such a call, ask questions. Get the name of the caller and his supervisor and phone numbers for both. Get the physical address and phone number of his organization. Make some calls or get on the internet and check it out. The numbers from which these calls originate are usually bogus but sometimes appear legitimate when you call the number back. Most of the calls come from faraway places including foreign countries. You cannot know with certainty with whom you are talking when you are on the phone or the internet. It is often impossible for law enforcement investigators to identify and track down these people. If we can identify them, we might not be able to take any enforcement action if the contact originated outside Lancaster County and particularly if it came from a foreign country. Your money likely will be lost.

The best thing to remember is that if it sounds weird, it probably is weird and you are probably being scammed. Do not be frightened into immediately sending money. Do your homework, check out the information you were provided, ask a friend or family member for advice, and do not let go of your dollars unless you are certain the transaction is legitimate and in your best interest.

Anyone with information about this or any other case should call the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office at 803-283-3388 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC or www.sccrimestoppers.com.