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Walmart’s help needed to fight senior tax scam, Schumer says

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks about an Internal Revenue

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks about an Internal Revenue Service impersonation scam targeting Long Island seniors on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. He stood next to a sign he wants Walmart to post inside stores such as this one in Westbury. Credit: Steve Pfost

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called on a major retailer to help prevent seniors from being ensnared in a tax scam.

Schumer said his office had received “hundreds” of complaints statewide, including many from Long Island seniors, about the phone scam, which directs them “to the closest Walmart” to make money transfers to pay for back taxes, purportedly to the Internal Revenue Service.

In the scam, fake IRS agents claim the victim owes thousands, threatening them with arrest or court proceedings if they don’t immediately pay, Schumer said.

He wants the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain, which his office said had apparently been the go-to store for the scam, to display large warning signs in its stores. He said store employees handling money orders should also caution people.

“Walmart should do its part,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a Westbury Walmart parking lot. “It’ll save our people thousands and thousands of dollars.”

Schumer also has asked the FBI to dedicate resources to target the scammers.

In a statement, Walmart said it had “various procedures in place to help protect them from criminal behavior such as financial scams.”

“We care deeply about our customers,” the statement said. “We are constantly reviewing our educational and prevention measures and are in the process of taking additional steps to better inform consumers about scams claiming to be government entities such as the IRS.”

Some Walmart stores have signs, but they are small, Schumer said.

AARP New York State director Beth Finkel, who stood with Schumer, said the agency usually saw an uptick in such scams targeting seniors around tax season.

“It’s spreading like wildfire here, and it’s targeting Long Islanders,” Schumer said.

Finkel said the IRS would never call taxpayers to say police would come to their doors, ask for a credit or debit card over the phone, or demand immediate payment for back taxes.

George Jacobi, 60, of Jericho, said he had received more than 20 robocalls, including one Monday.

“It sounds like they’re going to lock you up and put you away for whatever you owe,” said Jacobi, a retired Con Edison employee who contacted Schumer’s office and the IRS.

Since October 2013, the IRS has received nearly 900,000 reports about similar scam attempts and more than 5,000 victims have lost almost $30 million, Schumer’s office said.


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