Du Quoin Chief of Police Jamie Ellermeyer credits local bank tellers with saving two local residents thousands of dollars in a phony California-based IRS telephone scam.
The residents were within minutes of withdrawing between $3,000 and $7,000 from their bank accounts to pay bogus back-taxes and fines claimed by a telephone caller purporting to be with the IRS.
Chief Ellermeyer said both cases happened in recent days. He said the caller claimed the taxes and penalties were due NOW and that the taxpayers should stay on their cell phones while they go down to the bank to get the money.
Ellermeyer said he only knows of the two residents who went down to the bank to make the withdrawal or get bank money orders to pay the phony claims. There may have ben others.
The caller claimed the back taxes and penalties were from a case years ago, which allowed no time for the residents to investigate the matter. The caller said the taxpayers would face further penalties if they didn’t take care of the matter now.
But, when the customers walked into their banks and explained what they were about to do the bank personnel were quick to question everything about the claims and talked the customers out of making withdrawals. They encouraged the customers to notify Du Quoin police.
Chief Ellermeyer said he tried the call-back phone number “and you could hear a lot of people talking in the background.” It was a boiler room phone scam operation. After the person on the other end hung up on him, he tried to call again.
“They had Caller ID” and the person at the other end clicked and cancelled the call as soon as he or she found out it was the police department calling again.
Police are trying to back-track to get to the source of the fraud, but it will be difficult.
The chief fully credits he bank tellers for stopping what could have been a financial disaster for the two residents.
Neither the victims nor the banks involved were named, but Ellermeyer said were it not for the quick-thinking and suspicious bank tellers the residents could have lost a lot of money.
The IRS is seeing this scam all over the country. The IRS tells the newspaper:
These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.
“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill..
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.