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Newest Sequim scam: Stealing from the deceased

Sequim residents don’t have to go far to find crime.

They can simply stay at home and answer the telephone.

A series of scams are hitting local and regional residents via the phone, using a variety of approaches to gain personal information.

Karla Pierce, a Sequim resident, is the executor of her mother’s will; her mom died last May. She received a call from someone claiming that her mother had debts and tried to get her mother’s Social Security card number.

“I know better,” Pierce said. “I just wonder how many people don’t know any better. My mom would have done it.”

Pierce recalled days of carrying around a Social Security card in a wallet or purse.

“You just can’t do that anymore,” she said.

Clallam PUD is warning customers of a possible telephone scam where the caller poses as a PUD employee and then attempts to collect money via a credit card.

According to PUD officials, this past weekend several PUD customers received a call from an “800” number where the caller said power would be shut off if the bill was not paid in full. The callers attempted to demonstrate legitimacy by knowing the customer’s address, though PUD officials note those addresses may be found through a variety of public directories. The callers did not have personal PUD account information, however.

Mike Howe, communications and government relations manager for Clallam County PUD, noted that while the PUD does disconnect power for nonpayment, the process is this: at about 33 days after the customer’s bill date, if the customer has not paid their bill, they receive a past due, 10-day notice in the mail. If the customer does not pay within those 10 days, the customer’s name then goes into the PUD’s phone notification system. Automated phone calls from the PUD occur on Friday, but if the call does not go through PUD workers make in-person calls the next Monday. Finally, if after the Monday call PUD officials are not able to reach the customer, a door hanger is delivered on Tuesday.

PUD customers would not receive a phone call unless their bill was about 45 days delinquent from the bill date, Howe noted. The utility district does not provide any information to customers about their account unless the customer provides verification that they are the account holder, Howe said.

Additionally, the PUD only makes manual calls during regular operating hours, Monday through Friday, Howe said. Disconnects for non-payment also occur during normal working hours, Monday-Friday, providing one more opportunity for customers to make arrangements.

For more information, call the PUD at 452-9771 to verify the legitimacy of an inquiry. Or see www.clallampud.net.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office also is warning residents of a “fast-moving scam” in which callers purport to be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents.

Scammers then demand payment for taxes owed and often know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number, can make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling, send follow-up bogus IRS emails to support their scam and call a second time claiming to be the police or Department of Motor Vehicles.

The IRS usually contacts people about unpaid taxes by mail, the Attorney General’s offices notes, not by phone. Additionally, the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, nor will they involve law enforcement or immigration agencies.

If you or a family member receives one of these calls, the Attorney General recommends hanging up. If you do get into a conversation, do not give anyone money or credit card information over the phone and don’t trust callers who use threats or insults to bully you.

You may report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

If you owe or think you owe federal taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 to verify information. For more information, visit www.irs.gov.

 

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