Alert Safeway Employees Save Woman From Losing Thousands In IRS Back Taxes Scam

Only weeks after Internal Revenue Service officials announced that more than 290,000 consumers have fallen victim to an ongoing back taxes scam in the last 15 months, alert employees at a Safeway supermarket in Washington prevented a woman from being added to the list of victims.

Edmondsnews.com reports Safeway employees became suspicious when the 54-year-old woman came into the store to purchase $2,400 in prepaid credit cards to pay the IRS for an outstanding tax bill.

Police officials say the woman was contacted by a man who said that if she didn’t immediately pay the alleged IRS bill she would be arrested.

By the time the woman caught the attention of the Safeway employees, she had already purchased $3,000 in prepaid cards at another location – which means there’s a supermarket in the area that didn’t notice the obvious red flags that a scam was in progress.

When officers arrived to speak with the woman, she received another call from the purported scammer.

This time, though, he called using a computer system to display the phone number of the woman’s daughter.

“The same caller/suspect now stated that they had the victim’s daughter held hostage and that if the victim didn’t pay the money they would kill her,” officers tell Edmondsnews.com.

Officers were able to determine that the woman’s daughter was in no danger and that the call was just part of the scam.

“Thanks to the quick thinking of the Safeway store employees and officers on scene, they were able to cancel the previously purchased credit cards the victim had purchased, saving her $3,000,” police officials say.

It’s unknown how the suspect or suspects selected the woman, but police say it is likely that the call came from outside the U.S.

While authorities in Washington are reminding residents that the IRS does not try to collect back taxes over the phone and does not use detectives to enforce tax collection actions, this week’s incident is far from the first time something like this has happened.

Thankfully, more and more retail employees are being trained to identify the telltale signs of these tricks, which often require victims to pay in either wire transfers or prepaid cards.

Back in September 2014, well-trained employees at a Safeway store in Maryland were able to stop a couple trying to get $4,000 worth of prepaid debit cards.

When an employee asked the shoppers why they were putting so much money on the cards, the customers said they’d been contacted by IRS agents who claimed they had to pay thousands of dollars right away in order to stop an IRS investigation.

A similar situation took place in March 2012, when an alert Big Y clerk prevented a woman from falling from the “granny scam,” where people receive an “emergency” phone call saying that a loved one — usually a grandchild — has been in an accident and needs to have a pile of cash wired overseas ASAP.

Remember, if the IRS believes you owe it money, you will get a bill in the mail. The agency will not call you and tell you that you need to pay ASAP and that the only way you can do so is with a reloadable debit card, nor will they ask you for credit or debit card information over the phone. The IRS will also not threaten to have you arrested for lack of payment.

If you get one of these calls, hang up. If you aren’t sure it’s a scam because you do actually owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800 829-1040.

If you know you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800 366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.

Edmonds police, Safeway employees save potential IRS scam victim $3,000; caller threatens to kill victim’s daughter [Edmondsnews.com]