Phone scams on the rise during tax season

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 5, 2019

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EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — It’s no surprise that tax season can put many Americans on edge, but the public has to keep in mind that scammers often use that anxiety to try and trick people into sending them money., a phone registry and search resource, did a study of phone-based scams and ranked Michigan 11th in the country in terms of people targeted by scammers. The group said there were 1,982 complaints regarding phone scams made to the Federal Trade Commission per 100,000 people in the state. It also stated that such phone scams peak during tax season. They said April 15-21 is predicted to be the busiest week of the year for scam calls.

Scammers pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service or other government organizations is a common tactic, but police departments warn people not to be fooled.

“People have been seeing a lot of phone calls saying the IRS thinks they’re delinquent and they should send them a gift card or money order, and that is never something the IRS does,” said Roseville Police Chief Ryan Monroe. “People can get nervous around tax season, and there are people out there looking to take advantage of that.”

“These scams go on all year round, but they take different tactics during tax season,” added Eastpointe Deputy Chief Eric Keiser. “They take advantage of people who are vulnerable. They make hundreds of calls, and if one person responds, they can make a profit. We advise everyone to fact-check before sending money off.”

Many scams share particular warning signs, especially in regard to the IRS or other government agencies.

“Anytime people are asked to mail a credit card or gift card, it’s a scam,” said Monroe. “Don’t give anybody your Social Security number over the phone. The IRS usually contacts people by direct mail and almost never uses the phone.”

“The IRS will never call you and tell you (that) you owe them money,” Keiser said. “The local police also doesn’t arrest people for IRS violations. No government agency will have you pay with a gift card — that’s a sure sign of a scam. Prerecorded messages saying you need to pay money also isn’t how the law or government operates.”

Those who think they have been contacted by a scammer are advised to cease communication immediately and report all the information to their local police department.

“If people have problems or if they suspect something may be off, they should call their local police department,” said Monroe. “It’s better safe than sorry, especially around this time of year when scams like this are so common.”

“Always be skeptical when it comes to your money,” said Keiser. “If you are contacted by someone, look up the relevant agency’s phone number online and call them. Don’t call the number given to you.”

Those who suspect a scam or who have already been victimized also can contact the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040.