The Oregon Department of Revenue has recently seen a spike in concerned taxpayers reporting fishy phone calls. The callers fraudulently identify themselves as IRS or Department of Revenue employees and threaten the taxpayer with arrest if they don't provide personal identifying information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers.
State officials say a scam like this surfaces every year. The tell-tale sign is the caller threatening arrest or other consequences, which is an attempt to goad a taxpayer into a bad decision. Revenue employees may ask a taxpayer to verify some personal information, but they won't make threats or demand personal or financial information.
"We encourage the public to protect themselves by verifying they're speaking with authorized representatives of the Department of Revenue if they have any questions about the legitimacy of the call," said Ken Ross, Revenue's manager of fraud prevention and detection.
If a caller says they're with the Department of Revenue, but something about the call doesn't seem right, taxpayers can call the department directly at (800) 356-4222 to check the validity of the call. Unfortunately, the phone number you see may tell you nothing about a call's legitimacy. Fraudsters often make their calls appear to come from a Washington, D.C. or Oregon area code, just because they think it will help their deception.
Here are a few notes to help taxpayers protect themselves and others from becoming victims of fraud:
* Collectors with the Department of Revenue will always send a letter to a taxpayer about their debt before making a phone call.
* Revenue agents never ask a taxpayer to wire money.
* Tax payments don't have to be made over the phone. Payments can also be made online or by mail. Visit www.oregon.gov/dor/payments to see payment options for each tax program.
* The Department of Revenue maintains a list of official mailing addresses for all offices in the "Contact Us" section of www.oregon.gov/dor. Revenue staff won't ask taxpayers to send information or payments to any addresses that aren't on this list.
* Report scams and fraud to:
o The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) Consumer Hotline at (877) 877-9392 or DOJ's website: www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-
o The IRS at (800) 366-4484.
For information on scams and fraud happening in Oregon and more tips for protecting yourself, visit www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-