Howard County police are investigating multiple cases of telephone fraud, where the caller poses as an agent from the Internal Revenue Service or federal government, police said in a news release Wednesday.
Police said nine cases involving county residents have been reported since October 2013, with occurrences increasing during the start of tax season.
Police said in some cases, scammers have received victims' Social Security numbers and monetary amounts between $2,000 and $3,000.
In each case, victims received a phone call from someone posing as an agent of the IRS or federal government, according to police. Police said victims are told they owe money and must pay promptly over the phone via a prepaid debit card.
Victims are also told there are outstanding arrest warrants for them because of delinquent taxes, police said. The scammers also ask the victims to provide their full Social Security number, police said.
Police said scammers encourage victims to use Green Dot Reloadable prepaid cards, which allow victims to purchase the cards and relay the card numbers over the phone.
Police said the IRS has issued a bulletin warning consumers about the scam, and that scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number. Police said scammers often spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID, and sometimes send bogus IRS emails to support their calls.
The department is warning residents to take the following precautions to avoid becoming victims of the scams:
- Anyone can claim to be with a government agency, well-known business or charitable organization.
- Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot.
- Keep your personal information to yourself.
Police said similar scams have been reported in the county using other agencies, including BGE.
Police said they are reminding residents "to never give out personal or monetary information over the phone. Be wary of unknown callers requesting payment over the phone via prepaid cards, money orders, or wire transfers."
Police said if you believe you may have been a victim of a telephone scam, call police at 410-313-2200.