"We want to remind residents to treat any call where someone threatens you or demands money as suspicious, and to immediately report it to law enforcement."

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Polk County, Florida -- The Polk County Sheriff's Office is seeing an increase in telephone scams in Polk County where the caller identifies himself as a "tax crime investigator" and threatens bodily harm if the victims don't pay up.

In one recent case, the scam artist told the victim that he would come to her house and kidnap her if she didn't pay money she "owed" to the IRS. The 92-year-old woman paid out $8000 before reporting it to the sheriff's office.

"We want to remind residents to treat any call where someone threatens you or demands money as suspicious, and to immediately report it to law enforcement. Get as much information about the caller as you can so that we can investigate it. If you have elderly relatives, ensure they are aware of scams like these. NEVER send money to someone you do not know." - Sheriff Grady Judd

Telephone scams aren't new, and they change and evolve over time. Earlier this year, the IRS sent out a list of one dozen common scams. Characteristics of these scams can include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security Number.
  • Scammers "spoof" or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do: If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-104. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

If you've been targeted by these scams, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint."

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