Police chief warns about IRS scam

LIHUE — The chief of police is warning the public to be aware of scammers after he received a phone call this week from an individual impersonating an IRS agent.

“I received a voicemail message on my personal line stating that this was my last and final notice from the IRS, which was attempting to reach me regarding a lawsuit against me,” Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry said. “The message instructed me to call a number. The line was busy when I attempted to call, but it was certainly not the number to the IRS.”

He warned the public to be aware of scams.

Perry said scammers use aggressive language and often threaten arrest or legal action to pressure the victim into making a payment over the phone. Other scams can claim that the person is eligible for a large refund, he said.

Perry said that advances in technology have allowed criminals to make their scams more believable by altering caller IDs to make it appear as though the IRS is calling.

David Tucker, spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said the agency does not generally contact the public telephonically.

“The IRS will first send send a letter or notice by U.S. Postal mail, not by email or social media,” Tucker said. We also don’t threaten arrest or to bring in local police. We don’t demand you pay taxes without appealing the amount. The taxpayer has the right to appeal the amount.”

Tucker said the IRS doesn’t ask for specific payment methods such a debit or credit card. He also said that the public should not reply to texts, emails, or pop up messages on their computers.

Tucker said in Hawaii, 16 people have been cheated out of $55,000 by scammers. In the nation, since October 2013, a total of $26.5 million has been paid to con artists as a result of tax-related scams.

A new scam has recently popped up targeting college students, Tucker said.

“One in which scammers are calling and claiming that the parents of students owe a federal student tax,” he said. “There is no such thing.”

Perry advised the public to never give personal or financial information to strangers.

“Once you give money to a con artist, it is very difficult if not impossible to get it back,” he said.

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