If you think online and telephone scammers just couldn't fool more people -- think again. The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration this week issued a warning to taxpayers to beware of phone calls from individuals claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in an effort to defraud them.
"This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. George noted that his agency has received reports of over 20,000 contacts and has become aware of thousands of victims who have collectively paid over $1 million as a result of the scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials.
+More on Network World: IRS: Top 10 things every taxpayer should know about identity theft | US Secret Service: Stronger laws could help fight sophisticated cybercrime +
The scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every State in the country. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver's license.
The truth is the IRS usually first contacts people by mail - not by phone - about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won't ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won't ask for a credit card number over the phone, the agency stated.
There are a few things that should send up red flags if you get one of these calls:
- The callers use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
- The perpetrators know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
- Many make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
- The criminals send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
- Many fraudsters call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
The IRS recently warned consumers of this and other ongoing scams that tend to peak during tax season when many taxpayers could be on edge. These phone scams include many variations, ranging from instances from where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund. Some calls can threaten arrest and threaten a driver's license revocation, the IRS stated.
Check out these other hot stories: