ALBANY, N.Y., Nov. 25 (UPI) -- New York's governor is warning of elaborate telephone and email tax scams perpetrated by people claiming to be Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said scammers posing as representatives of the IRS or New York Department of Taxation and Finance are threatening New Yorkers with fines, deportation, arrest and other penalties if they do not immediately pay a claim of owed taxes.
"My administration is committed to protecting New Yorkers from illegal and dishonest scams that rip off taxpayers," Cuomo said in a statement. "These criminals are posing as public officials and using fear to dupe taxpayers into forfeiting their money. I urge all New Yorkers to be mindful of these scam artists and encourage anyone who thinks they may have been targeted to immediately contact the proper authorities."
The scams are being conducted primarily over the phone, with a caller instructing recipients to immediately submit payment for back taxes supposedly owed to the IRS or state via wire transfers or a pre-loaded debit card. In some cases, these calls have been accompanied by a fake IRS email sent to support the claim. If victims appear hesitant or unwilling to comply, the caller turns hostile by threatening police arrest or the loss of one's home. If the victim does not respond to these threats, the scammer may have others call the victim pretending to be from a government entity such as a local law enforcement agency, Cuomo explained.
Some of the recent scams have been specifically targeting immigrants in New York and coercing them with threats of deportation.
Many of the scam calls have been reported as coming from the 530 area code -- northeastern California. Alternatively, through telephonic 'spoofing' techniques, the actual phone numbers of the IRS, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles and local police departments might also register on the caller's ID screen, appearing to legitimize the fraudulent activity, Cuomo said. Scammers have also used fake names and IRS badge numbers, and may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.
The New York Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection advises people:
-- The state Tax Department and the IRS always make first contact by letter with a phone number you can contact to verify that it was sent by the agency.
-- Neither agency will request personal or financial information via email.
-- Hang up the phone immediately if someone claiming to be from the Tax Department or IRS unexpectedly calls and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation.
To report fraudulent activity to New York state authorities, contact the state Tax Department at 518-435-8523 or the New York Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection at 518-474-8583.