IRS Scam: 5,000 victims cheated out of $26.5 million since 2013

IRS, Treasury Dept. say once scammers have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash

Credit: Reuters

The Internal Revenue Service says that aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents continues to plague taxpayers.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in January said it has received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.

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“The phone fraud scam has become an epidemic, robbing taxpayers of millions of dollars of their money,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in a statement. “We are making progress in our investigation of this scam, resulting in the successful prosecution of some individuals associated with it over the past year.”

George added: “As the tax filing season begins, it is critical that all taxpayers continue to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees. This scam has proven to be the largest of its kind that we have ever seen. The callers are aggressive and relentless. Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash.”

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The Treasury Inspector General’s office said that callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Utilize an automated robocall machine.
  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • May know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
  • Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

As of January 20, 2016, the Treasury Inspector General’s office said the following phone numbers are known to be used by the scammers to call potential victims:202-239-1163, 202-239-2474, 202-239-2905, 202-552-3775, 206-204-4983, 442-229-3644, 661-434-0959 and 716-707-0511.

"There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Some schemes may say you're entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble. We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us.”

Koskinen noted five things scammers often do but the IRS will not, Including:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

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