The Roscommon County Sheriffâ??s Department is investigating a scam that involved a woman who was defrauded of nearly $6-thousand.
The investigation began on Jan. 14 after the victim received a voicemail message from people who were claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The woman called the number back, and she was told that she owed back taxes for several years, and that the IRS had been attempting to collect the money from her for some time.
She was transferred to multiple subjects, who then threatened that if she did not resolve the matter immediately that police would come and arrest her. They told the victim that she would be incarcerated for three to five years.
The woman was then instructed to purchase â??Green Dotâ?? Moneypaks. Under Sheriff, Edward Stern says that these are legitimate debit cards that a person can purchase and put money on them. They can be found at many grocery and drug stores. The Moneypak is then used to transfer funds to any pre-loaded credit/debit cards owned by the person. The cards can be used to make purchases or pay bills.
Officials say the culprits demanded immediate payment through the Green Dot Moneypaks. The victim purchased the prepaid debit cards and was instructed by the fraudsters to scratch off and read the serial number to them.
Using the serial number, a total of $5,900 was taken from the woman.
Stern says that they have not received any other complaints of this scam in the area, but caution that scams like these involving Green Dot Moneypaks are a nationwide issue. Stern says that credibility is often gained by caller ID, appearing to be genuine, and through multiple follow-up emails that appear to be from the IRS.
â??In this investigation itâ??s very hard to track back who the suspects are,â?? said Stern. â??Most of the time theyâ??ll use the prepaid cell phones that arenâ??t able to be traced back to a certain person. Even in this case, the phone numbers that came up that the suspects used, it came up as 9-1-1 on the caller ID. How they were able to do that I canâ??t answer that but us being able to track them back at this point, weâ??re not having any luck with that.â??
The Roscommon County Sheriffâ??s Department is offering these tips for fraud prevention:
1) Avoid responding to phone, text or email solicitations from anyone. Most genuine companies will not solicit funds via these methods. Responding to solicitations for payment is not wise as there is a high likelihood of fraud.
2) If you have no initiated the contact, use caution. Ask questions and request further written information from the organization. Research the organization and their claims thoroughly before take any action.
3) You do not have to pay â??now,â?? and you should not feel pressured. If telephone, door to door, or email solicitations make you feel pressured (especially if you are made to feel that you must pay now), do not pay money or provide any information. Take time to do your own research, or ask for assistance from someone who might be more knowledgeable. The more pressure there is to make payment immediately, the greater the likelihood that there is fraud involved.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the following advice:
â??The truth is the IRS usually first contacts people by mail, not by phone, about unpaid taxes. And the IRS wonâ??t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The agency also wonâ??t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, hereâ??s what to do:
1) If you owe federal taxes or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at the following number: 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
2) If you donâ??t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
3) You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add â??IRS Telephone Scamâ?? to the comments in your complaint.â??