Thousands of victims have already paid more than $1 million to phone scammers posing as IRS agents.
To Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted maxim that, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes,” one might now add, “and tax scams,” and “the largest…of its kind we have ever seen” is targeting taxpayers across the country, the Internal Revenue Service has cautioned.
A reported thousands of victims have already paid more than $1 million to phone scammers posing as IRS agents. According to the IRS, “victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.”
Other characteristics of the scam include:
· Scammers user fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
· Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
· Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that the IRS is calling.
· Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support the phony calls.
· Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site,
· After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others shortly call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV.
The IRS notes that the first agency contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail. The IRS does not ask for PINS, passwords or confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. “Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, or request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”
At least 20,000 taxpayers have been contacted in this phone scam. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, the IRS encourages you to:
· Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 if you know you owe or think you might owe taxes. The IRS employee can help with any payment issue.
· If you know you do not owe taxes and are threatened by the caller, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector general for Tax Administration at 1800-366-4484.
· If you have been targeted by this phone scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov.
This new phone scam joins the IRS’ annual list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams, which include identity theft, phishing, return preparer fraud and false promises of “free money” from inflated refunds.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.