One of the best ways to shield yourself from scams is to be aware of some of the things that government agencies, utilities, and other entities will never ask you to do. We at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) will never call you up telling you that you have a warrant and have to pay a fine to avoid arrest. And yet citizens in our community have been losing money to a scammer calling them up and impersonating our deputies. And no one – not PCSO, or Duke Energy, or your bank – will ever ask for payment in a non-traditional form. You can bet that if someone wants you to pay in gift cards or cryptocurrency then everything is not on the up-and-up.

Tax season brings its own financial dangers as scammers try to take advantage of your stress. Most of us are a little uncertain about our taxes – are we getting the right deductions, are we doing everything the proper way? We’re ready to believe that we might have made a costly mistake that will involve sending the IRS more money. Criminals will take advantage of that anxiety, playing on your fears to convince you that you owe money – and then persuade you to pay them instead of the government.

The first clue that someone might be scamming you is the method of communication. In almost every circumstance, the IRS will contact you by mail if there is a problem. Any follow-ups will also be through the mail. In very special circumstances you may eventually get a personal visit from an IRS agent – for a delinquent tax return or for a criminal charge of tax evasion – but even in those instances you would have received many letters in the mail first.

What you will NOT get from the IRS is a scary phone call. If anyone cold calls you claiming to be from the IRS, you can safely assume they are trying to scam you out of your money. The same holds true for an email or text. (Note that if you have contacted the IRS yourself by phone about a specific problem they may then get back in touch with you by that method to help you or answer your questions.)

Scammers will do whatever they can to make you afraid – and since the tax system is inherently intimidating, that is a prime target. They’ll threaten you with arrest, suspension of your driver license, or question your immigration status if you don’t pay immediately. But the IRS doesn’t have the authority to revoke your license or change your immigration status, and an arrest for large-scale and deliberate tax evasion would be a long and complicated process. Believe me, if you were going to be arrested for tax fraud, you’d know about it years in advance.

Once they know you’re afraid, they’ll demand money immediately. They won’t give you a chance to think, make a phone call, or do a little research. Their scam depends on you acting in a panic. They’ll ask for payment in crypto or gift cards, or maybe a wire transfer.

Even if you know you owe money to the IRS, don’t let yourself be scammed. The IRS assigns overdue tax debts to private debt collection agencies and only uses CBE Group, Coast Professional, and ConServe. And these agencies would only ask for payment made out to the U.S. Treasury.

If you’re unsure if you owe money to the IRS, you can check your tax account by visiting: If you believe that you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, contact the PCSO non-emergency line at 727-582-6200.

Posted by Laura Sullivan Monday, March 11, 2024 8:05:00 AM

Non Emergency Line: (727) 582-6200 | In an Emergency call 911ADA info