Police in Madison and Winslow are investigating reports of an anonymous caller claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service and asking residents to return an urgent call on their landline phones.

“They’re just leaving messages saying that people better pay their taxes,” said Officer Eric Bronson of the Madison Police Department. “It’s almost threatening. They’re just harassing people.”

About 12 calls have been reported in Madison within the last two weeks, said Bronson. In each one the caller does not actually speak to anyone, but leaves a similar message in which they claim to be from the IRS. Police have tried returning the calls but no one answers and the number cannot be identified, he said.

Bronson said he was not sure if the caller uses the same number every time.

A similar scam was reported in Winslow last month and police are still investigating the origin of those calls, said Winslow Police Chief Shawn O’Leary.

“It’s definitely an ongoing issue,” he said Friday. “In my opinion it seems to be geared towards the elderly,” because they are more likely to have landline phones.

Madison police are asking residents who receive the scam calls to report their complaints to the Federal Communications Commission via the agency’s website. A federal law known as the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 prohibits people from making misleading phone calls and violations can result in a penalty of up to $10,000 per call, according to the site.

“We are telling people that if you don’t know who it is, it is probably best not to answer,” said O’Leary.

Earlier this year, the IRS issued a warning about such scams, saying they are on the rise and target recent immigrants as well as the elderly. The IRS reminded people that it doesn’t call taxpayers.

“The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail,” the notification on IRS.gov said. “The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone. For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type ‘scam’ in the search box.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm