Crime

IRS phone scam hits Whatcom County residents

Tax scammers have been targeting residents of Whatcom County this week, calling people - usually seniors - to tell them they’re being sued by the IRS and must send money. The IRS always sends tax notices in the mail and its agents never call with urgent demands for cash.
Tax scammers have been targeting residents of Whatcom County this week, calling people - usually seniors - to tell them they’re being sued by the IRS and must send money. The IRS always sends tax notices in the mail and its agents never call with urgent demands for cash. AP

Tax scammers have been targeting residents of Whatcom County this week.

In a scam as old as the robocall, phone messages have been telling people that they’re being sued by the IRS, and that they need to call another number to resolve the problem.

The endgame is to fool people into forwarding money, and quickly. Scammers have been known to threaten arrest, deportation or loss of a driver’s license.

Two of those calls went to Whatcom County Council member Barbara Brenner on Monday, Feb. 8. She said she was called once early in the morning and again around noon. The automated messages told her to call 206-451-0992.

A second woman, a resident of Sandy Point, told The Bellingham Herald that she and her neighbors were told to call the same number. And a Lynden woman, 83, said she had been phoned twice by scammers on Monday. They directed her to dial 509-643-4437.

Both of those numbers have been logged repeatedly on sites where users report scammers. Sometimes more guileful fraudsters will disguise their number with a Washington, D.C., area code. Often they prey on seniors.

There are a few telltale signs that it’s a scam. For one thing, the IRS always sends tax notices in the mail. Also, agents never call with urgent demands for cash.

If you believe you received a scam call:

▪  Don’t give out sensitive financial information.

▪  Call the real Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040, to find out if you truly do owe money.

▪  Make a report through the Treasury Inspector General for Administration website at TIGTA.gov, or call the fraud hotline at 1-800-366-4484.

Visit treasury.gov/tigta for more info on phone fraud scams.

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