May 5, 2016


FCSO continues to receive calls from numerous Florence County citizens who have been contacted over the telephone by threatening callers claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The message usually goes something like this; “This is a call from the IRS involving a federal case against you for not paying your taxes. You must return this call immediately or your local sheriff’s office will come to arrest you.”

If you foolishly return the call or engage the caller in conversation, they will usually indicate that if you simply go to a nearby pharmacy and load several hundred dollars onto a gift card, all this unpleasantness will go away, and law enforcement will not show up at your door. This is a complete scam!

First of all, the IRS does not do business over the telephone that way, and even if they did, the chances of being able to resolve a legitimate tax issue with a pre-paid gift card are zero to none. Far from making all the problems go away, if you are ever persuaded to go the gift card route, even once, they will keep the scam going until you decide you have had enough or run out of money. And finally, rest assured that your local sheriff’s office will NOT be coming to arrest you for any IRS matter. The IRS has Federal law enforcement for that!!! If you get one of these calls, just hang up or delete the message.

Another common scam over the internet involves an email which appears to be from one of your loved ones (yes, they will use the loved one’s name) or a friend who has allegedly been arrested and needs money to get out of either a local or foreign jail. Again, you are told that a gift card loaded with several hundred dollars or your credit card number is all that is needed to set your loved one free. This too, is a scam. Don’t fall for it. Don’t reply to the email. Just delete it.

While no one is immune from these scammers, unfortunately they seem to primarily target senior citizens and the most vulnerable. The scammers know that seniors by nature are very patriotic, trusting of claims of authority (IRS scam) and extremely interested in helping others down on their luck (jail scam). Because they often live alone, seniors are more easily victimized. So, hundreds or thousands of dollars later when they realize that they been scammed, seniors will be embarrassed at having been taken advantage of and reluctant to disclose the facts to friends or adult children for fear that their independence will be curtailed. Many simply choose to suffer the loss in heartbreaking silence.

Financial Crime Investigators with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office work closely with other state and federal authorities to try to stop these scams, but sadly there is little that can be done on the local level as most scams originate in foreign countries. Blocking certain numbers or email addresses can be temporarily effective, but the best defense is not to become a victim in the first place. Our advice upon receipt of such a call, voicemail or email from an unknown source or that does not seem right is to simply hang up or delete the voice message or email.

For questions or additional information on telephone and internet scams, please contact FCSO Investigators at (843) 665-2121, ext. 374.


Major Michael M. Nunn
General Counsel/P.I.O.