By A.J. ALGIER
Sun Staff Writer
CHARLESTOWN — A local woman was worried enough about receiving a call concerning a tax evasion claim for nearly $9,900 against her husband that she contacted Charlestown police.
Usually skeptical about phone calls from anyone she doesn’t know, Maria Dzwil said the caller left a message explaining they were from the department of legal services and they had been instructed by the IRS to give verbal notification that they were taking action.
Dzwil said she called the number and the person on the other end told her the problem had to do with tax evasion in 2007.
Dzwil explained that although she was confident the couple owed nothing to the IRS, they moved out of state in 2007 and wondered if they had missed getting a notice that there was a problem. She asked the caller why they had not received a final notice. The caller, she said, told her the conversation was being recorded and a “federal agent was listening” and “it could be incriminating.”
The frightening part, Dzwil said, was she was told there was a federal warrant out for her husband’s arrest.
She asked about the next step. She was asked to mail a check for $9,856.22 ($2,498.56 plus penalties) to the department in California. As soon as they mentioned sending money, Dzwil said she told them she would need more information and would be verifying the contact with her local police department.
As she drove into the Charlestown police department lot, still on the phone with the person demanding money, she met with Charlestown Police Chief Jeffrey A. Allen.
Allen said he took the phone from Dzwil and identified himself. He said the woman, “who didn’t appear to be a credible government professional,” said the IRS would be coming down to arrest Dzwil. Allen said he warned the caller about law enforcement being aware of the scam. He said the caller eventually hung up. Dzwil said they have not called again.
Allen said the IRS does not call taxpayers, whether in arrears or otherwise, demanding money. He said contact is generally made through the mail. He said his department has taken more than one complaint regarding this particular scam.
According to law enforcement authorities, the callers are apparently using software so that “IRS” will appear on caller IDs. They will also send emails to support the calls. A second caller often claims to be the police or department of motor vehicles.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island Attorney’s General Peter F. Kilmartin has warned about the resurgence of the IRS scam.
He said in the most recent wave, individuals are contacting taxpayers by phone, telling them they owe back taxes and demand the victim pay money immediately with a preloaded debit card or wire transfer. Kilmartin said the caller often threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, he said, the caller becomes “hostile and insulting.”
Kilmartin said consumers across the country have been falling victim to this scam for months despite numerous advisories. He said no state has been immune to the scam.
“Hang up,” Kilmartin advises. He also advocated reporting the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
He reminded residents never to provide bank account or other personal or financial information to an unfamiliar company and not to wire money to unknown sources.