Tax season is here, and there’s been a phone scam going around for several months that involves perpetrators claiming to work for the IRS, asking people to pay back taxes.
The caller sometimes asks if the person will purchase a prepaid debit card and load it with money. Another method scammers use is requesting a wire transfer to a bank account.
In Philadelphia, police have issued a warning about a major scam involving at least one person who has been calling and leaving threatening voicemail messages, according to Fox News.
The anonymous caller says ignoring it would be seen “as an intentional attempt to avoid initial appearance before a magistrate judge.”
The caller then asks the person to verify their name, social security number, date of birth, and then says its “an IRS situation.”
Police say that if one gets a call similar to this, one should hang up the phone and send a scam report to Treasury.gov.
Gene Wren of Durant, Oklahoma, said he recently got a similar call asking for money.
He told a local paper, the Durant Democrat: “They said they had a warrant for my arrest for back taxes I owed.” And he told the person on the other line: “Where is your office here in Durant, I’ll come and talk to you.”
Two women in New Jersey were also recently victimized by the IRS scam, reported a local New Jersey station.
Pasippany Police said one woman was called by someone who invoked the IRS and threatened to arrest her if she didn’t pay $7,000 in taxes. She sent $3,000 through Western Union to “Martin Douglas,” and she then became suspicious and called the police. The money was then cashed and couldn’t be recovered.
On the same day, a different woman sent $17,500 via several Money Grams because the caller said she owed back taxes, police said.
The IRS says there are five signs to look for when getting a call from someone who is claiming to work for the agency.
The IRS says it does not do the following:
Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
And if one doesn’t owe any taxes, it recommends:
Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
The IRS also gave a few tips to avoid being duped by scammers:
Scammers make unsolicited calls. Thieves call taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.
Callers try to scare their victims. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.
Cons try new tricks all the time. Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send to their victims. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
Scams cost victims over $23 million. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts since October 2013. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam.