by Lisa Tome
Imagine toiling away to complete your income taxes then sending them off only to find that someone has already filed in your name.
It's a reality and is happening more frequently.
According to Lt. Michael Holmes, spokesman for the Cecil Sheriff's Office, scam crimes, particularly those involving the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are on the rise.
"We are seeing an increase," said Lt. Holmes.
One of the current IRS scams to which locals have fallen prey is a phone scam. Someone calls the victim's phone, most often a landline and tells the victim there is a problem with their taxes and they need to send/wire a cashier's check. "There have been a few people who have fallen prey to that. We urge anyone who is contacted not to send it," said Lt. Holmes.
There are other current phone scams which have been reported. One has victims being told that there is a warrant for their arrest. In order to keep from being arrested, victims are told to send money. Other scammers use a similar ploy to alert victims that they missed jury duty and have to pay a fine.
"If anyone calls to ask you for money, call us to ask questions," said Lt. Holmes.
Local victims have also found that they have filed their taxes for a second time. That's because someone has already stolen the victim's identity, filed a return, and claimed the refund check. "That's a long, tedious process," said Lt. Holmes. "People need to safeguard their identity."
The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following to protect your identity:
• Keep your important papers secure.
• Shred important documents before placing them in the trash.
• Limit the amount of personal information that you carry with you.
Lt. Holmes recommends that people do frequent credit checks to make sure that your identity has not been stolen. He said that people's personal security can be breached via the internet.
Scammers then use that information to fill out loan applications or apply for credit cards.
He said another local scam has people posing as power company employees. In a specific case, a female posing as a Delmarva Power employee, kept homeowners busy at the front door while others stole property from the rear of the home.
"Scams of all types are on the increase. Identity theft is more prevalent. A lot of these crimes take time before they are discovered. Do frequent credit checks," said Lt. Holmes.
He said that all ages - young people to senior citizens- are being targeted.
Seniors may be more likely to fall victim to phone scams because they are more likely to have a landline phone.
"A lot of these crimes are not reported because people hang up (on scammers). A lot of the callers are foreigners and it's hard to track them down," added Lt. Holmes.
If you have questions about any of these type of scams, contact the Cecil Sheriff's Office at 410-996-5500 or your local municipal police department.