Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on Wal-Mart to help put a stop to tax scammers. Long Islanders have long been exposed to IRS imposters attempting to lure them into transferring money at Wal-Mart stores and Schumer says it has to end.
“Thieves get on the phone and they call up somebody—often a senior citizen, not always—and they say ‘you owe several thousand dollars to the IRS. You better hurry up and mail it to us or we’re going to charge you a much bigger fine or you’ll be arrested.’ People are scared,” said Schumer.
Scammers often use Wal-Mart stores as a means of receiving money from unsuspecting victims. They also usually demand the money transfers be sent immediately. Schumer has said that approximately 5,000 victims have sent more than $30 million to these scammers.“The IRS impersonation calls are often hard to trace. They either do them from overseas or they hide their numbers, as you can do through many different agencies,” said Schumer.
Resident Don Mazurkiewicz said he got a call from the IRS a couple of months ago saying there was an issue, but he knew something wasn’t right.
“A couple of months ago I got a call from allegedly the IRS…and a week or two ago I got a call allegedly from the Treasury Department saying there was a problem and I could have some Marshall or court coming after me,” said Mazurkiewicz. “After that I tried the Treasury Fraud hotline. I didn’t get any results from them. After that I called Schumer’s office and they called me back on the same day.”
Mazurkiewicz is not the only victim who has dealt with this recently. George Jacobi says he got a call this month as well.
“It’s just annoying because it makes you feel bad. They’re saying you might owe somebody money and you didn’t pay it and I don’t like that,” said Jacobi. “I called the IRS. I made complaints with them and I hope they get it settled out pretty soon because it needs to be addressed right away.”
Schumer also said that Wal-Mart should provide warnings to the general public to avoid people falling prey to this financial trap.
“We want Wal-Mart to put up signs, but more importantly, to have employees instruct any one who comes to take out a money order to the IRS to wait and check it out before they rush to send the money,” said Schumer. “This is hard earned dollars. Sometimes it’s people’s Social Security money. Sometimes it’s half their paycheck.”
In conjunction with Schumer, the AARP is also trying to stop the use of distasteful tactics in posing as the IRS. According to the AARP, New York State is ranked 17th in identity theft complaints. The AARP’s Fraud Watch Network wants people to be more educated about how to avoid being financially victimized. AARP State Director Beth Finkel says that in 2014 more than 10,000 IRS scams occurred.
“Most importantly we want people to remember three things,” said Finkel. “The IRS is not going to call you and tell you that they’re going to have police come at your door. The IRS is not going to call you and ask you to give them a credit card or a debit card over the phone and finally the IRS is never going to demand immediate payment on taxes owed. First they send you letters and notifications, so please double-check. Please be safe if you don’t want to be one of those victims during tax season.”
Schumer has verified that Wal-Mart was contacted and advised that they already have some signs up and will work to put up more. For more information on how to avoid being victimized, visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.