Residents falling victim to IRS scam
March 12, 2014
New: March 12, 12:23 p.m.
Sammamish police are warning residents to beware of a scam where someone calls and says they are collecting back taxes. The scam often seems to target people of Indian or Pakistani descent.
The scam has become common in the city, registering multiple instances of it in just the past week, said Sgt. Tony Garza of the Sammamish Police Department.
Typically, the caller, who is often described as having an Indian accent, calls and tells the person that he is with the Internal Revenue Service. Sometimes, they might say they are with some other government agency.
Often, the caller makes up an official sounding name for an agency that doesn’t really exist, said Sammamish police Det. Bill Albright.
The caller will say that someone is on the way to arrest the person, or someone in their household, because they owe back taxes. They will direct the person to purchase money packs or wire the money in some fashion.
Some people have been taken for thousands of dollars through this scam. Albright said he’s heard of scammers taking in $150,000 in a day.
People who get the call should not be fooled.
“No. 1, the IRS does not have powers of arrest,” Albright said. “They’re not going to send the FBI.”
Also, the IRS does not accept things like money packs or gift cards from stores as payment. People who do owe back taxes may see their wages garnished, but they won’t be expected to wire money to anyone, Albright said.
The cases are extremely difficult for police to investigate, so those who lose money are not likely to get it back.
Police can’t simply run down the number which called because it is extremely easy to fool caller ID systems and route a phone call through a different number than the one actually calling, Garza explained.
“One routed the number through a state senator’s office in Olympia,” he said.
The location to which the money is wired is also suspect, Albright said. He noted that once someone has the necessary numbers, they can pick up the funds anywhere in the world, not just the location to which it was sent. Even if police know where the money was picked up, there may be nothing they can do.
“A lot of them could be in a third-world country,” Albright said.