Residents warned of area scams

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By Christine Bolaños

When Belva Cox received a call that appeared to be an automated recording telling her she owed money to the IRS or would be sued, she knew something was fishy. The Internal Service Revenue would not only not call, but not do so close to midnight.

“I picked up the phone when it rang. I presumed that it was a recording from the way it sounded. It immediately said it was from the Internal Revenue Service and that I owed the IRS money and that if I didn’t pay right away I would be sued. It left a phone number and then hung up,” Cox said.

The Liberty Hill resident was one of the fortunate ones. She knew the phone call was not legitimate, but not everyone is so lucky.

“The IRS doesn’t call people like that. The IRS contacts them by mail. This is the first time that I have had a call from the IRS scam,” Cox said, adding that she knows others who have gotten the same type of call.

Liberty Hill Police Chief Randy Williams says residents should be aware of red flags to avoid falling into the IRS scam — or other similar scams — traps.

“Don’t ever give anybody any personal information who you didn’t initiate contact with first. If they call or email you first, don’t give them any information. If it sounds too good to be true then it is too good to be true,” he advised.

“Any government agency is not going to require you to pay before they give you a refund. Protect your mail if you have a street mailbox, not a post office box, make sure it doesn’t pile up. That’s how a lot of people get your identity,” Williams added. “Contact your local law enforcement if you believe you have been scammed or believe you are being scammed.”

He advised residents to check in with law enforcement for the legitimacy of calls asking for money before making any transactions. He said IRS scams are “pretty prevalent” in the area and that protecting personal information is of essence.

The IRS website lists a number of resources to help people prevent and handle scam situations.

The IRS tax scams consumer alerts page on irs.gov lists some of the recent scams. Among them is the tax preparer phishing scam which the website reports as a “bogus email” that “asks tax professionals to update the IRS e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs). The lists that are provided in the bogus email to access IRS e-services appear to be a phishing scheme designed to capture your username or password.”

IRS.gov states the email was not generated by the IRS e-services program.

IRS-impersonation telephone scam is another scam reported on the website.

“An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call,” the website states. “They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter called IRS to make it look like the IRS is calling.”

The IRS alerts of a new email phishing scam known as “Update your IRS e-file.”

According to IRS.gov, the emails seem to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus website that mirrors the official IRS website.

The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov without a dot between “IRS.”

Scam emails can be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS reports its staff does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email for personal or financial information. For more information on scams, how to avoid them and how to report them, visit www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts.

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