By Derek Gomes, The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers that scammers are perpetrating a new scheme to defraud them.

An emerging trend involves scammers sending correspondence with an “authentic looking [IRS] letterhead” to scare residents into making a false tax payment or providing personal financial information, according to an agency press release issued last week.

What makes the scam particularly cunning is that the IRS tends to make first contact with individuals through the mail, said Greg Crawford, a principal at the city-based accounting firm of Yount, Hyde and Barbour. In the past, scams have typically involved phone calls and emails.

“The harder we try to combat [schemes], the more they’ll try to find new ways to convince people to do things otherwise,” Crawford said during a Monday phone interview about the recent rise of fraudulent correspondence.

Even an old scheme has a new twist. Some scammers now program what name appears on a phone’s caller ID to make it appear that it is from the IRS.

Regardless of the method, the intent of the scams remains the same: to instill fear in the taxpayer. The scammers bank on the targets “panicking and doing something without thinking about it,” Crawford said.

He recommends ignoring phone calls and emails from people purporting to be IRS representatives. If you receive a letter, Crawford advises taking it to a tax professional for inspection.

“Unfortunately, part of the world we live in is you can’t be too careful,” said Crawford. “When you get a call or email or letter that says the IRS has a problem with taxes, there’s a natural fear.

“But you can’t let that take over you without checking it out first.”

— Contact Derek Gomes at dgomes@winchesterstar.com