By AMANDA KIMBLE
Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant knows a scam when he hears one. In fact, Bryant heard one this week when scammers called his residence directly.
“I was home at lunch and got two phone calls,” Bryant said. “Both of the numbers were from Washington D.C. When I answered one of them, there was an automated voice, saying the call was coming from the IRS.”
The recording went on to say Bryant (not mentioning his name specifically) needed to immediately call a specified number and pay the debt.
“It said I need needed to pay what I owe or a lawsuit would be filed and my property would be seized,” Bryant said, adding he didn’t call the number back.
But, upon returning to his office, Bryant received similar reports from local residents. Several residents said they received multiple calls over the last few days, with some coming from individuals who were “pushy” and “demanding.”
Similar calls spurred the IRS to issue a warning earlier this week, placing the ”aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents” on the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for the 2016 filing season.
“On one version of the call, they say they’re going to send local law enforcement officials to your residence,” Bryant said, adding the fear of legal problems or incarceration can be persuasive.
“At least one victim sent the money as instructed,” he said. “I want people to understand that the IRS is not going to call you with this message. That isn’t how they do business.”
In an attempt to deliver the message to as many residents as possible, the sheriff’s office sent out a notification via the Code Red community alert system. You can sign up for similar alerts through the Erath County website, www.co.erath.tx.us .
The message, which residents received Wednesday, said officials are aware of the issue and residents do not need to continue report the scam. Instead, Bryant advises citizens to disregard the calls, no matter how convincing they may seem.
The website for the IRS, irs.gov, says there are several things the agency will never do in attempt to collect back taxes, including making calls demanding immediate payment. You will first receive a bill in the mail. The IRS will also never demand payment without giving taxpayers the opportunity to appeal; will not require the use of a specific payment method, such as prepaid debit card; and won’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the telephone.
“They will also never threaten arrest by the local sheriff’s office or other law enforcement officials,” Bryant said.