BENNINGTON >> If the phone rings and a voice on the other end says they're from the Internal Revenue Service, hang up immediately.
Folks from across the state are receiving unsolicited calls to their cell and home phones. The caller claims to be from the IRS, demands money, and makes threats if people decline to give personal information or send money.
But the IRS will never call taxpayers to demand immediate payment, and will not call you without first having mailed you a bill.
Vermont State Trooper Justin Walker said that on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., a 64-year-old Stamford resident received a call from a person claiming to be an IRS representative. The caller demanded they immediately send cash and threatened the individual with federal warrants and a license suspension. The victim sent payments to two different subjects for a total of $4,500.
The Bennington Police Department released a notice on May 25 warning residents of the scam. It reads, "If you receive a phone call regarding the scam please do not provide any formal information."
The IRS' website has tips to guard against scam phone calls and lists tactics frequently used by scammers. For example, scammers will use caller ID "spoofers" to change the number they're calling from and they will try to con individuals into sending cash, "usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer." Scammers also try to scare individuals by using threats and bullying them into sending money. Some use fake IRS titles and badge numbers to appear legitimate. Scammers will sometimes leave "urgent," prerecorded callback requests.
Over a dozen residents commented on the Bennington Police Department's Facebook page that they received a call. Some reported receiving more than five calls and voice messages.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received about 736,000 reports of scam attempts since October 2013 and about "4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million," according to the IRS.
Anyone victimized by an IRS scam is asked to report it to TIGTA by calling 800-366-4484 or online at www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml, as well as the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
If you think you owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
Out of the top 10 reported scams in Vermont, IRS scams are No. 1, affecting 3,131 people, with debt collectors to follow. The least common scam is identity theft affecting 124 people, according to the University of Vermont. The number of scams reported in the state increased from 1,740 in 2012 to 5,896 in 2015.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.