IRS scam resurfaces

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A scam that has bilked $25 million out of American taxpayers so far is making the rounds in Suffolk again.

The scam artists call victims and pretend to be an Internal Revenue Service agent. They use harassment and threats to get the victim to pay a fictitious tax bill.

Potential victims might be threatened with arrest, having their business license revoked or, if the scammer knows they might be in the United States illegally, threatened with deportation. Senior citizens might be threatened with the loss of their benefits.

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Victims are asked to go to a local retailer and pick up a prepaid debit card, then provide the scammer with the number on the card.

“You don’t have to go to a retail store and purchase a GreenDot card and put your life savings on it to give to these individuals,” said Mark Green, an IRS spokesman. “If you get a call out of the blue stating that you owe money that you don’t owe, simply hang up.”

Green said victims targeted are usually senior citizens or college students, “who are entering into the tax arena, so to speak,” Green said. “College students coming into the world are not familiar with the system.”

Lending the appearance of legitimacy to their scam, the scammers sometimes are able to make it appear that the call truly is coming from the IRS. The caller ID might say “IRS” or “Internal Revenue Service,” and sometimes the return number appears to be a legitimate IRS number.

The scammers also mine public information and previous phone calls to learn more about their victims.

“They try to use it as some sort of credibility to show that they are legitimate,” Green said.

People who receive a call such as this should, first of all, not give the scam artists any information. They should then report it.

Calling 1-800-366-4484 will connect the taxpayer with the U.S. Treasury Inspector General, who will file the report.

The IRS will never use the telephone or social media as the first contact about a legitimate tax bill that’s due, officials have said.

With tax season coming up, Green also advised taxpayers to safeguard their tax information and file returns as soon as possible to avoid thieves filing bogus tax returns using someone else’s information.

He also advised taxpayers to use direct deposit for their refund checks, to get their refund faster and avoid checks being lost or stolen.