IRS warns of Phone Scam Targeting Taxpayers
Oct. 31 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)) The Internal Revenue Service warned Thursday of a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers -- including recent immigrants -- in nearly every state, including Wisconsin.
The IRS said victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a preloaded debit card or wire transfer. If victims refuse to cooperate, they are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting, the IRS said.
"We are seeing a significant scam across the country and want to make sure taxpayers are on the lookout," said Christopher Miller, the IRS spokesman for Wisconsin. "According to information obtained from the Federal Trade Commission, there have been reports of this scam in Wisconsin. We don't want people here or anywhere to fall victim to this scam."
IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said the federal tax agency never asks for credit card numbers over the phone. The IRS doesn't request a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling," Werfel said.
Other characteristics of the scam include:
-- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
-- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number.
-- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
-- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
-- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
-- After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or a department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim.
Here's how to handle a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS:
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help with a payment issue -- if there really is an issue.
If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill or the caller made threats), call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
If you've been targeted by this scam, you also should contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov. Add the description "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
The IRS said taxpayers should be aware there are other unrelated scams, such as a lottery sweepstakes and solicitations for debt relief services, that claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS said it doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information. It also doesn't ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in a suspicious message. Instead, forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.