The federal government this week urged taxpayers to remain on high alert from falling victim to criminals who impersonate Internal Revenue Service and Treasury employees this tax filing season.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration receives thousands of reports every month involving individuals fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials making unsolicited calls and recorded calls to taxpayers and demanding they send them cash, the agency said in a press release issued Wednesday.
“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,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, says in the release. “This scam has proven to be the largest of its kind that we have ever seen. The callers are aggressive and relentless.”
The TIGTA has received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam, in which criminals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding they send them cash via prepaid debit cards, money orders or wire transfers from their banks, the agency said.
The TIGTA issued the following tips:
- 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.
- The callers who commit this fraud often:
- Utilize an automated robocall machines
- 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
- Aggressively demand immediate payment to avoid being criminally charged or arrested
- Claim that hanging up the telephone will cause the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes
- 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
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, TIGTA advises:
- If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
- If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.
- Forward any scam e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text or any social media.