Port Arthur seeks out targets of tax scam

As previously reported in the pages of this newspaper, a scam targeting seniors and persons receiving disability benefits made its way through Jefferson County in the past few months, with residents of Port Arthur impacted at a significant rate. Those perpetrating the scam duped victims by promising them access to a federal stimulus check, allegedly available to all Social Security recipients, even though no such provision exists. Victims supplied the scammers with copies of their driver’s license, Social Security number, and banking information.

In reality, the scammers were using the ill-gotten personal information to file bogus income tax returns in the victims’ names, keeping half of the proceeds for a company that uses many monikers including Syam Tax Services. The IRS would then seek repayment of the full amount from the victim.

The number of victims impacted by the scam prompted local authorities to arrange a meeting Sept. 10 at the Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur. Mayor Bobbie Prince called for the meeting, and the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Texas and the Port Arthur Police Department assisted.

According to Jay Sheppard of the local BBB, the event was an informal gathering to address the needs of potential victims of the scam.

“It is just something we’re doing to get those that might have been affected some help, so that they can get paperwork done that they need and to answer any questions they might have at this point,” Sheppard said.

Information from the BBB said the meeting was for area residents on Social Security disability that may have been recently affected by income tax return identity theft in Southeast Texas. Officials provided important information on the steps to take for those who have been affected by this form of identity theft.

Port Arthur City Manager Floyd Johnson said the meeting was necessary to “try to prevent the spread of something nefarious and bad throughout our city” that has targeted “those who are the least likely to fight back.”

Port Arthur assistant police chief Raymond Clark said city resident Diana Broussard has been identified as a likely perpetrator of this crime, and those who have given her sensitive information should immediately fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit for the IRS, a copy of which is available at the police department and the local BBB.

For more information, contact the Port Arthur Police Department at (409) 983-8600 or the BBB at (409) 835-5348.