IRS: Beware of phone scamPublished 8:19pm Saturday, November 9, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers about a phone scam currently operating throughout the country.
Victims are contacted by phone and told they owe the IRS money that must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer, the IRS reports.
Hundreds of such phone calls have been reported across the nation, said Mark William Hanson, IRS spokesman for Virginia.
“For every phone call reported, there may have been several that have not been reported,” he said. “If someone gets one of those calls, they need to take steps to make sure they don’t fall into a scam artist’s trap.”
Taxpayers resisting the request to send money are being threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license, the IRS says.
“If the taxpayer does not be cooperative, the scammers are starting to get threatening,” Hanson said. “They are just basically harassing, bullying and threatening the taxpayers into compliance.”
The scam is frequently targeting recent immigrants, Hanson said, but not exclusively. Everyone needs to be on the lookout, he added.
Scammers are also using fake names and IRS badge numbers, mimicking the IRS toll-free number on caller ID systems, using background noise to mimic a call center, and often reciting the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number, and sometimes the whole number.
Hanson said the IRS does not make unsolicited calls. “Most people aren’t going to get a call from the IRS out of the blue, even if they owe the IRS,” he said.
“The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to call the IRS back.”
While in recent years the IRS has discovered various so-called phishing scams originated from outside the U.S., Hanson said he was unable to pinpoint the origin of this particular scam.
“Of course we want to shut it down,” he said, “but at the moment, we need to get the information out to taxpayers to warn them.”
Hanson said he was not aware of any victims from Suffolk at this juncture.
“If someone has access to a pool of data, those email addresses usually aren’t geographically tied,” he said. “Two people can both have Gmail accounts and be in different parts of the country.
“At this point, we are not completely sure where the scam artists are getting their data. We have reports of hundreds (of cases) around the country.”
Anyone who gets a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS should call the IRS at 800-829-1040, if they owe taxes, or report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration if they don’t owe taxes or don’t think they do.
Complaints can also be filed at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.