Residents across the country are receiving calls that appear to be from legitimate organizations like the IRS, AARP, or Treasury Department. The callers claim that the resident owes money and demand immediate payment through a prepaid debit card. If the resident refuses, the caller may become hostile or insulting and threaten deportation, arrest, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. If the phone call is not answered, they will often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Do not be fooled by these calls – They are all scams. And they are more likely to happen around tax season.
These scam artists often use an automated voice machine, have prepared fake names and IRS badge numbers, and know a few things about the resident (like the last four digits of their Social Security Number). The caller ID information may even appear as if the IRS really is calling. In more recent cases scammers have been misleading senior citizens, who are often the main target in these scams, by changing their caller ID to display "AARP". “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.” Unfortunately, these calls are difficult to trace so potential victims must be vigilant and not give any of their personal information over the phone.
Remember – The IRS does NOT communicate with residents over the phone. According to the Treasury Inspector General’s website “Here is what you need to know. The IRS generally first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order or wire a transfer. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.” Regardless of what the call claims or what the caller ID says, insist that they send everything to you in writing.
So what can you do to combat these scams?
1. Do not give any of your personal information over the phone. Insist that everything be sent to you through the mail.
2. Delete fake IRS e-mails and do not open any attachments. Scam artists often send e-mails to back up false claims made through phone calls.
3. 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.
4. Please share this story with your family and friends so they do not become victims of these scams. If your family member does not use social media, please call them or tell them about these scams in person.