COLUMN: Be aware of phone scammers masquerading as IRS

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

Federal tax season is under way, so it’s time to remind everyone to be aware there are plenty of scammers out there who’d love nothing better than to take advantage of you.

Each year about this time, our investigators start fielding reports from people who say they’re receiving phone calls that say they owe money to the IRS. The main thing to remember is that the IRS does not call people up to demand money. If you were to actually owe money to the IRS, you would receive an official letter from them in the mail.

There may be some variation, but the scammers are basically saying the same thing when they call you: You owe money to the IRS. They go on to say that if you don’t pay – immediately – you’ll be arrested or deported, your business will be shut down, they’ll suspend your licenses and permits, etc. The scammers get ugly with you and tell you that you don’t have any choice but to put money on a prepaid card to get to them or do some other type of wire transfer.

Just remember, the IRS doesn’t call people to tell them they owe money. The IRS doesn’t request credit card numbers, prepaid debit card numbers or wire transfer information over the phone. No matter how bad the scammers try to scare you, don’t give them your personal information. Don’t give them your money. Tell them they can send you something in writing and you’ll take it to your accountant and attorney – and then hang up, if you haven’t already.

Be aware that these scammers will try and use fake names and badge numbers to sound official. They may hang up on you and call you back masquerading as a local law enforcement official. Don’t fall for any of it. They may even have the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number. If they rattle yours off, don’t confirm it. There’s a lot of telephone spoofing abilities nowadays, so they can make the number they’re calling you on look like it’s coming from the IRS. Again, the real IRS doesn’t call people; they send you an official letter. On a related note, don’t fall for any of the phony email scams – never click on links or attachments from emails you don’t know – that also go around claiming to be from the IRS.

If you have a concern about your taxes, contact the IRS directly at its official website: https://www.irs.gov. If you scroll to the bottom of the web page and look on the lower left corner, you’ll see a link that will let you know how to reach your local IRS office. Also at the bottom of the web page is how to report phishing scams such as this one. There’s a lot of information there you should familiarize yourself with to help yourself stay safe from scammers.

Be careful; stay safe. And please reach out to people you think might be at risk with these scams to make sure they know not to fall victim to something like this. These scammers are accomplished at what they do when it comes to victimizing people. If they put all this effort into leading a crime-free life, who knows what they’d accomplish? It’s really a shame they can’t be law-abiding citizens.

As always, the Sheriff’s Office asks that you keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy all of our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week from your Sheriff’s Office.