ANNAPOLIS -- Warning: The next tax auditor you meet may really be a thief in bureaucrat's clothing.
Maryland officials last week issued an alert to business owners to be on the look out for one or more taxmen who may be out to take their money and run.
The perpetrator is someone allegedly posing as a sales tax auditor in order to steal from some Baltimore businesses.
"We think it's some kind of con being worked," said Marvin A. Bond, spokesman for the state comptroller of the treasury. "We've had four reports of somebody going into small businesses and generally presenting himself as a sales tax auditor."
In one of the cases, the phony auditor was discovered by the owner trying to steal blank checks from the company, Mr. Bond said. In the three others, store owners became suspicious of the auditor and he fled.
"He uses an identification card he has apparently made from [comptroller office] stationery," Mr. Bond said. "It's not, as far as we know, anyone who has ever worked for us."
Capt. Charles Dickens, commander of the Baltimore Police Department's special investigations section, confirmed that police are investigating reports of one or more bogus tax auditors.
Investigators have gone so far as to stake out a Preston Street market hoping to catch a suspect in the case but he never showed up, Captain Dickens said.
City police are advising store owners to call them on 911 if they come across anyone claiming to be a sales tax auditor who does not have the proper identification.
Mr. Bond said legitimate sales tax auditors normally make appointments in advance when asking to review financial records. They also possess identification cards which specifically say that they are authorized to check business records, he said.
To check on an auditor's identification, people may call the comptroller's sales and use tax division at 225-1500 in the Baltimore area or at (800) 492-1751, Ext. 1500, from elsewhere in the state.