Schemers pose as IRS officials in massive phone scam

The Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) is warning U.S. taxpayers of a major IRS-related scam circulating. Scammers are calling taxpayers and posing as Internal Revenue Service representatives in an attempt to defraud them.

The scam was reported in the fall when U.S. officials warned the public of this scheme on Oct. 31, 2013, calling it a “sophisticated” scam. Apparently, the fraudsters haven’t given up as there are still reports of this scheme circulating and claiming victims. This scam has been prominent enough to be listed on the tax agency’s “dirty dozen” tax scams for 2014.

Tax-related phone scam

According to a warning issued by TIGTA, this phone scam is one of the largest to date. Every year the IRS typically warns of fraud related to taxes, however, this year over 20,000 people have been contacted by scammers, with thousands of these taxpayers falling victim to this particular scheme. Officials are warning taxpayers not to become one of the statistics.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a press release. “The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming.”

The tactics used include:

  • Making unsolicited contact by telephone. The IRS never contacts taxpayers by phone; they use traditional mail for initial contact.
  • Telling taxpayers they owe money to the government and need to pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.
  • Taxpayers that refuse this request are threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of license.
  • Citing fake IRS badge numbers and using common names in an attempt to sound legitimate.
  • Scammers often know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security Number.
  • Faking caller ID information so the calls appear to be coming from the IRS.
  • Sending out fake IRS emails to the victims.

Reportedly, the scammers have targeted taxpayers in almost every state in the country. 

What taxpayers should do

Any taxpayers that receive a suspicious, or what appears to be a legitimate, call from a person claiming to be an IRS official should not give out any information to the caller. If the taxpayer thinks he or she does owe taxes, TIGTA recommends hanging up and calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to inquire. If the recipient of the call knows he or she does not owe the government any taxes, officials advocate the person immediately hang up and report the call to TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484. Additionally, a complaint can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission online by adding the comment “IRS telephone scam” to the complaint.

Remember, if you receive a call, do not give out any personal information. U.S. officials say they will never ask for information via telephone, text, email or social media. They also warn taxpayers not to open any attachments that may arrive via these kinds of digital communications.

To date, more than $1 million has been stolen by the exploiters from unsuspecting taxpayers.