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'IRS' scam targets local residents, police say


St. Helens police chief: 'Several calls in the past couple of days'

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Terry Moss.The St. Helens Police Department is urging citizens to be aware of a scam in which an unknown caller impersonates a member of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and demands money.

According to police, the caller has extorted money from unsuspecting victims by claiming they are under investigation by the IRS for delinquent tax payments and will face arrest unless they transfer an amount of money to them using a Green Dot MoneyPak card.

“The ruse is simple and very effective if the victim isn’t paying attention,” a Friday, June 13, press release from the police department warns.

Chief Terry Moss added in an email, “We have had several calls in the past couple of days. A woman just left my office in tears after she lost $700 to these guys.”

Police say scam artists use the Green Dot MoneyPak card because it is not linked to a bank account, offers no consumer protection from fraud and is effectively untraceable. The card can be preloaded with money and used by whoever has its serial number, which police say the scammer demands from victims after they purchase the card and put money on it.

The police advise people to follow three tips for avoiding scam artists.

1. Be suspicious of anyone calling you to demand immediate payment for any reason.

2. Never give out personal information to anyone who calls or emails you unsolicited.

3. NEVER wire money, provide debit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak numbers to someone you do not know.