Sequim more savvy to tax scams, law enforcement says

Attempts to take personal information and/or money through scams as tax season begins aren’t going away any time soon, law enforcement reports.

However, Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said calls to the police department are becoming less frequent for scams, which she believes might be for two reasons.

“Either people aren’t calling them in as much and/or not as many people are falling for them anymore, which is great,” she said. “I do think we are seeing less people being scammed.”

In recent years, aggressive phishing phone calls made the rounds from a scammer or scammers posing as a representative with the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, demanding money owed.

There are also mailers and emails allegedly from the IRS and other agencies consistently barraging, but Brian King, chief criminal deputy for Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, said they’ve done a lot of education on crime prevention related to scams and the Attorney General’s Office updates current scams on its website, which has helped keep the public aware.

“We really say, if it’s too good to be true then it usually is,” King said.

“We welcome people to call us in advance if they suspect it is a scam and we’ll discuss it with them.”

Residents are encouraged to report any type of scam to the Washington Attorney General’s Office at http://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint, King said.

Crain said there are different scams for different seasons with February the beginning of more IRS scams being reported. As spring and summer come closer, Crain said home maintenance scams such as fake heater vent cleanings and overpriced vacuum sales become more frequent in-person and over the phone.

King said across Clallam County they’ve had 15 reports of scams but most of the parties were simply reporting it and not negatively impacted.

Other localized and common scams in Sequim, he said include charity scams over the phone where someone poses as a nonprofit seeking credit card numbers, and a “Grandparent Scam” where someone seeks money on behalf of a grandchild.

Crain said most of the scams originate outside of Washington making it difficult to investigate locally.

Several government agencies report scammers clone phone numbers to appear local but may be across the U.S. or out of the country too.

According to the IRS website at www.irs.gov, its staff will not:

• Call to demand immediate payment. Its staff will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.

• Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.

• Require that you pay your taxes a certain way, i.e. with a prepaid debit card.

• Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

• Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

IRS staff suggests those receiving a phone call falsely representing the agency do the following:

• Record the employee’s name, badge number, call back number and caller ID if available.

• Call 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.

• Call the person back to see if he/she is an IRS employee. If not, report it via email to phishing@irs.gov wit the subject line “IRS Phone Scam.”

Those reporting a scam or are a victim of one, can call 360-417-2459 locally to speak with a Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy or Sequim Police officer depending on where you live.

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