TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Millions of senior citizens are falling victim to scams, but federal officials are working to put those scammers in jail.
That's the message from U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez who held a press conference in Tampa Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Elder Justice Initiative has resulted in numerous prosecutions in Tampa and Orlando, according to Lopez. One case sent a Tampa man to prison for eight years for operating an IRS scam.
"If you receive a phone call and they're asking you to immediately pay a tax bill using a debit card or a gift card, if they're threatening to arrest you, it's a scam. Just hang up," said Mary Hammond of IRS Criminal Investigation.
Hammond also warned of bad tax preparers.
"If they're asking you to do something that doesn't sound right, like sign blank tax forms or promising you a huge refund even when they haven't looked at your tax documents. If they're charging you a large fee or if the fee is at all based on part of your refund, they're not a good preparer and you should avoid them," Hammond said.
Officials say be cautious with anyone you don't know. Don't give them the benefit of the doubt.
"I say assume the calls are fraud from the start. If this isn't a person you know from a long relationship in your life. When you get a call unsolicited, you should assume first that its fraud," said Eric Sporre, Special Agent In Charge, FBI, Tampa Division.