Summit County sees tax fraud cases as statewide reporting increases
A Dillon woman recently lost $5,000 in a tax fraud incident in which an unknown caller, posing as a tax examiner with the IRS, threatened to put out an arrest warrant. Dillon police reported that she went to City Market and wired the money to the caller through the Green Dot MoneyPak system. While tax scams aren’t common in Summit County, this tactic has popped up recently across Colorado as April 15 approaches.
“Just know that there are no agencies out there that will call you up and demand that you pay them right away. That’s extortion,” said Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous.
Unfortunately, in these cases, getting the money back is almost impossible — especially when wired directly. It’s difficult to trace the scammer, too, if the call is routed.
“Once it’s wired, more (often) than not, the money’s definitely gone. And it’s a lesson learned. And hopefully it won’t happen again,” said Ralph Gagliardi, agent-in-charge for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s fraud unit.
He added that victims should refrain from future contact with the scammers, lest they should be stolen from again.
“There should be no correspondence after they know it’s a scam. Zip,” Gagliardi said.
Scammers use a variety of tactics, to either steal identity information or coerce taxpayers into sending money. Since January this year, CBI has received 376 tax fraud reports, an increase in reporting from previous years.
Another perennial form of fraud that appears each spring is tax identity theft. Criminals who manage to snatch taxpayers’ information file false tax reports, often tweaking information to the victims’ disadvantage. Most people don’t realize this has happened until they try to file their taxes, only to learn their social security number has already been used to create a filing.
“The information we do have shows that for the most part, these scams are coming from all different points,” Gagliardi said. “Sometimes the bad guys parcel out information and sell it around the world. And that information is used to apply for the tax refunds.”
Unfortunately, out-of-state accounts are difficult to track down, and authorities can’t search account records without a warrant.
Gagliardi recommends that once taxpayers find out they are the victim of identity theft, that they put a fraud alert of their credit report and get a copy of it as well. In the case of a missing ID, the individual must file an ID theft report with local law enforcement and get a corresponding case number, before filling out IRS form 14039 and mailing in the paperwork promptly.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, Gagliardi recommends that you put a fraud alert on your credit report and get a copy of it as well. In the case of a missing ID, you must file an ID theft report with local law enforcement, and get a corresponding case number, before filling out IRS form 14039 and mailing in the paperwork promptly.
Breckenridge police reported no recent tax fraud cases, but the department has seen multiple reports of Craigslist scams. Several of the cases center on property rentals, where the scammer may pose as a real estate agent and ask customers to wire them money directly.
“We’ve had a number of them every year, but we’ve seen a spike this year,” said Breckenridge Police Chief Shannon Haynes. “There’s no one tell-tale sign that what you’re looking at is fraudulent. They’re taking information directly from sale or property management websites, which makes it look like it’s real.”
In many cases, the buyer seeking a vacation rental is responding to a deal that’s just too good to be true.
Breckenridge police shared a list of guidelines for avoiding Craigslist scams, including making transactions in person, never wiring funds and never giving out financial information.
For in-person Craigslist deals, the department offers its office and parking lot as secure, camera-monitored locations to make transactions.
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