HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The IRS continues to warn consumers to guard against scam phone calls from thieves intent on stealing their money or their identity. Criminals pose as the IRS to trick victims out of their money or personal information.
Officials at the BBB Coastal Carolina say they're getting about 15 calls a day from people who have been or were almost scammed.
"And what they are doing is scaring people," said Kathy Graham, President and CEO of the BBB Coastal Carolina. "Really almost desperately scaring people, telling people we are going to come and arrest you in the next three to four hours if you do not pay this tax bill."
What these scammers are doing is using a Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and are getting spook numbers to call people. For example, most of these fake IRS calls are coming from a 202 area code, which is Washington D.C. Graham says this makes many people believe it's actually the IRS, but she says the scammers are probably not in the country.
Graham says scammers will say they need you to go to Walmart, for example, and will have someone meet you there or we have someone watching you or following you. She says people are petrified.
Graham says senior citizens are hit the hardest. To them it's very important they pay their taxes. If they get a phone call that appears to be the IRS, they react.
"They work on impulse, they react, instead of responding," said Graham. "And once that fear has been put in them, that's when people make poor decisions."
Graham says scammers have said they are with the IRS, the Human Health IRS, Publisher's Clearing House, and more. She also says if it's too good to be true or too scary to be true, contact the BBB.
Phone scams first tried to sting older people, new immigrants to the U.S. and those who speak English as a second language. Now the crooks try to swindle just about anyone, and they've ripped-off people in every state in the nation.
Louise Reynolds has been on the receiving in of these scams. She says someone called her with an Indian accent and told her she won a quarter of a million dollars and a brand new Mercedes, but in order her to receive the money she had to send him the "taxes" on the money and a shipping fee for the Mercedes. He also told her that she would need to go to Walmart to send the money. She says after she sat for a minute, she thought there's no way this could be real. He called her about a half an hour later asking had she sent the money, she told him no. And that's when he told her she must not have wanted the money. She tells me he called back another time from a different number.
"They want your money, because they know you're old, we live off social security, and we don't have anything else," said Reynolds. "It's not fair, it's not right, and I think the more awareness we can get out, the better off Horry County is going to be."
Here are several tips to help you avoid being a victim of these scams:
- style="margin-bottom:10.0pt;">Scammers make unsolicited calls. Thieves call taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.
- style="margin-bottom:10.0pt;">Callers try to scare their victims. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
- style="margin-bottom:10.0pt;">Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
- style="margin-bottom:10.0pt;">Cons try new tricks all the time. Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send to their victims. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
- style="margin-bottom:10.0pt;">Scams cost victims over $23 million. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam.