If a telephone caller claims to represent the IRS and demands payment or face arrest, don’t believe him. If the caller says he’s from a utility and your power will be turned off if bills aren’t paid, hang up.
Across the region, people are being targeted by callers purporting to be from government agencies or utilities threatening harsh repercussions if money isn’t sent to them.
And thousands of people — many senior citizens — fall for the scams.
The calls have reached such an epidemic level that the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings. Federal law prohibits debt collectors from using intimidation, threats and harassment, and no one can be jailed over a debt. The Internal Review Service contacts people by mail, not by phone.
“The callers are aggressive, intimidating and threatening to turn off people’s power or have them arrested,” Piermont Police Chief Michael O’Shea said Monday. “Victims should break contact and contact the police. Government does not make those types of calls.”
One caller canvassing more than 100 Piermont businesses and residents identified himself once as “Police Chief Michael O’Shea,” O’Shea said. “These calls originate from overseas. They Google a community, in this case Piermont, and make calls,” O’Shea said.
In many cases, the scam involves buying prepaid Green Dot MoneyPak cards. People use the prepaid cards to pay telephone, cable and credit card bills. Victims are asked to give the card’s number to the scammer, who can then retrieve the amount paid on the card. The Green Dot website warns customers about scams and advises they never give their card number to people they don’t know.
Federal Trade Commission:
People can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Crime prevention tips:
• Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
• Remember that anyone who has the number on a Green Dot MoneyPak card has access to the funds on the card.
• Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you unsolicited.
• Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak card numbers to someone you do not know.
• Utility companies and government agencies will not contact you demanding immediate payment by MoneyPak.