Refugees are new target of tax season scams

Posted at 11:32 PM, Feb 08, 2016

With tax time right around the corner, thieves are ramping up their efforts to deceive the unsuspecting

“Folks are receiving these scam phone calls saying that they were from the IRS and wanted people to contact them in the hopes of them probably giving them money,” Captain Sean Simit with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office told 7 Eyewitness News. “Well we know that the IRS will never contact people by phone, by email by text or by social media.”

He says the scams are getting harder and harder to track, with crooks using sophisticated systems to call multiple people at once.

Although the calls themselves aren’t new to local police and the FBI, the group being targeting is.

“It is very, very sad and something needs to be done,” Abdirahman Farah said.

Farah moved to Western New York from war torn Somalia close to 15 years ago. He is part of the region’s growing refugee population.

From 2000 to 2010 Buffalo saw a 33 percent rise in the foreign born population. People from around the world including Burma, Thailand, and Somalia are making their way to Western New York to escape the turmoil in their homelands and begin a new life -- but that new life is often hard to navigate.

“They don’t know nothing about transportation, they don’t know where to go, school or what buses to take -- it’s really a struggle for them."

And the struggle is what criminals are preying on.

Abdul and the organization HEAL International is looking to spread this message to those newcomers in the refugee committee. By partnering with other local refugee advocacy groups and law enforcement, people are receiving knowledge about a system many are encountering for the very first time.

“For them to be aware of and prevent it happening to them in the future, that’s really great opportunity and awareness for them to learn,” Farah said.