State officials say there’s been a spike in the number of incidents of a scam that purports to be the Internal Revenue Service calling to demand payment.

According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, scam phone calls were reported by more than 100 people in the state on Friday alone, and 61 were reported Thursday.

“These are often randomly dialed calls, but for some reason the 207 area code seems to be their target in recent weeks,” said Attorney General Janet Mills.

There appear to be two types of calls – one from a live person, another taped – in which call recipients are told that they owe taxes and the IRS will sue them, have them deported, take away their driver’s licenses or shut down their business if they don’t pay the taxes immediately. The scammers tell the person they’ve called to get a prepaid debit card and then contact the caller with the card number, at which point the money will be drained from the card.

Tim Feeley, spokesman for the AG’s office, said the state hasn’t gotten any reports that a Maine recipient of a call has fallen for the scam, although he notes a county sheriff or local police force might be contacted in that case.

Mills said anyone who gets a call should hang up immediately and not provide any personal information. Feeley said if the person called engages with the caller, the person might get additional calls because the scammer knows that the number is working line and someone is answering it.

“Do not give them personal information and do not wire them money,” Mills said.

Beatrice Fortin of Standish said she remembered hearing about the scam last year and the warning she heard at that time came in handy when she was called by scammers twice Friday.

Fortin said she got the taped version of the call, in which a woman told her that the IRS was going to sue her and she needed to call an 800 number to make payment arrangements.

Fortin said she hung up and contacted the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy told her to make sure she ignored the call and didn’t dial the 800 number.

“If I hadn’t heard about it (last year) I would have probably panicked,” Fortin said.

Feeley said there’s little the state or local authorities can do about the scams, since many of them originate from overseas. If authorities can get the phone number of the caller – it’s often blocked on caller ID systems – they can work with federal authorities and phone companies to try to trace the call.

Feeley said the calls to Maine residents began in late December, but then reports fell off for the next few weeks. He said he’s not sure why the calls are surging now, but speculated that the calls might be generated by automatic dialers and they could recycle the numbers after a list is exhausted.

Feeley said governmental agencies won’t call people and demand payment. He suggested taxpayers contact the IRS themselves if they think they might owe taxes.

IRS impostor scams should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or online at http://goo.gl/SmvguX.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]