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Uptick in tax scam calls reported to police

MADAWASKA, Maine — While the Valley seems far from the rest of the country, residents here still fall prey to tax scam calls, with an increasing number reported to local police in recent weeks.

Madawaska Police Chief Ross Dubois said he has seen an average of 10 reports per week from concerned citizens regarding such scam calls. The calls come in from phone numbers that are often blocked or are even masked as the real phone number for the Internal Revenue Service, according to the IRS website.

Officials said there are a few ways that taxpayers can identify if they are receiving a scam phone call.

“The easiest way to tell, is if someone claims to be from the IRS,” Dubois said. “All correspondence from the IRS is conducted through the mail, not the phone.”

Many of the con artists call and demand payment immediately, often asking for debit or credit card information, and, sometimes, for payment through a prepaid debit card. The callers usually say that if the person does not pay up, then he or she will be arrested, according to both the IRS website and Dubois.

Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins said IRS representatives also would never ask for an individual’s social security number in an unsecured fashion, and if the caller does, it is a scam.

“The IRS will never call or send you an email, they only communicate by U.S. Postal Service,” Collins also said Thursday. “So if someone calls by phone claiming to be from the IRS, they are lying.”

The end of August seems to be a hot time for the scams to occur, and both Dubois and Collins indicated that the reason for the uptick in scam calls this time of year might be due to the timeliness of when individuals file their taxes. Dubois said one possible reason would be because the October deadline for filing extensions is approaching and the callers probably hope to catch someone who has filed for an extension. Collins said that his guess would be, that since August is anywhere from 4 — 6 months after people file their taxes, there is an “air of legitimacy” behind the calls that would cause a person to believe they might be being audited.

Cecilia Barreda, a spokesperson for the IRS, said the agency issues warnings all year round for people to be cautious and alert for potential scams.

“We put this on the radar year round because scammers are always trying new tricks,” Barreda said. “You should hang up and never provide any information.”

Scammers also are using emails to try to trick people into providing information, according to Barreda.

Individuals who have received a tax scam call are encouraged to report it by contacting the IRS at 1.800.366.4484 or by filling out a scam call report online.

Follow Morgan Mitchell on Twitter @TheMaineMorgan

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