Frauds and Scams

Watch for these red flags:

  • Callers requesting money (especially via wire transfer, money order, or unconventional means like gift cards).
  • Callers pressing for quick action and insisting on secrecy and immediate payment.
  • Claims that hanging up the telephone will cause the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant.
  • Repeated calls or follow up calls in which caller claims to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim.
  • Threats of being criminally charged or arrested.
  • Utilization of an automated robocall machine.


The Grandparent Scam

The Mill Valley Police Department has had recent reports of the "Grandparent Scam." In this scam, the caller pretends to be a grandchild in need of emergency money and asks the grandparent to send funds to help. The telephone fraud is also known as the "Emergency Scam" and has been included in the top ten famous scams for over a decade, but the fraud seems to be gaining ground.

Typically, the caller says she or he has been in an accident, was arrested, is stranded or in similar trouble and needs money sent immediately.  The caller also insists that the victim not tell anyone else - which increases the odds that the fraud will be successful. The scammer will sometimes use seemingly confidential information that appears to prove their identity as a grandchild (using the grandchild's name, or a pet name of the grandparent). By the time the elderly call recipient realizes what happened, the money is long gone and not recoverable.

This type of fraud is particularly disturbing as it plays upon a grandparent's natural desire to protect family members. 

Variations of this scam include the caller claiming to be an old neighbor or friend. The scam has proliferated and become more sophisticated with the increase of information on the Internet as con artists and scammers can obtain personal information from family blogs, genealogy Web sites, social networking sites and online newspapers. Anyone, but especially seniors, should exercise skepticism when an urgent telephone call for money is received.


The IRS Telephone Scam

These scammers call taxpayers claiming that the individual owes the IRS money and demand payment, often threatening jail or punishment if payment is not made. The TIGTA states that roughly 896,000 contacts have been approached since October 2013 and that over 5,000 victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.

The IRS generally first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order or wire a transfer. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.

Report information of a scam directly to the IRS. Call 1-800-366-4484. The Mill Valley Police Department will only take a report if money has been transferred.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • Report the scam, by filling out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website,, or calling TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at Add “IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

Learn more about the IRS Telephone Scam.