July 26, 2004 This time it's the Internal Revenue Service that serves as the gambit for the latest scam to circulate around the Virgin Islands. Non-resident aliens are advised, via fax, that they must fill out the accompanying form in order to maintain their tax-exempt IRS status.
The letter is signed by director of information Jerry Green and comes on what purports to be IRS letterhead.
It warns that "if your account of any other financial benefits are not rectified in a timely manner, it will be subject to USA tax reporting and backup withholding. If backup withholding applies, we are required to apply 31 percent of the interest paid to you."
The accompanying form W-8BEN 11 asks for bank account names and numbers, Social Security number, passport number as well as personal information likes name, address and birth date. The scammers can use this information to steal identities and money.
"Tear it up and throw it away," IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski advised from his Florida office. He said the IRS does not send out mass mailings.
Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said that neither the IRS nor the local Internal Revenue Bureau has anyone named Jerry Green on their staff. He said that people should never give out this type of information.
Rutnik said that he doesn't know of anyone who has been bilked by this scam, but if anyone has filled out the form, they should contact Licensing to learn what they can do to prevent the scammer from stealing their identity.
"But already people have been calling to say they've received it," Rutnik said.
This is just the latest in a growing list of scams aimed at illegally parting people from their identity and their money.
Rutnik said that scammers use established businesses and organizations, like the IRS, as a front to make the public feel comfortable about revealing personal information.
He said the dozen most common types of scams include business opportunity scams that promise a lot of income for a small investment of time and money – making money by sending bulk e-mails, chain letters, work-at-home schemes, and health and diet scams.
Additionally, criminals can try to get your money by promising easy money, getting something free, offering investment opportunities, selling cable unscrambler kits, guaranteed loans or credit on easy terms, credit repair scams, and vacation prize promotions.
Concerned residents can call Licensing at 774-3130 in St. Thomas, 773-2226 in St. Croix and 693-8036 in St. John.
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