There’s nothing that strikes fear into the hearts of men (and women) like a call from the IRS — and this tax season, that’s what a new group of identity thieves counted on to bilk taxpayers out of over $1 million and counting.
In this new scam, which is so serious that the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration issued a warning about on Thursday, thieves contact individuals by phone and demand immediate payment for supposedly unpaid taxes in the form of a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. People who refuse are threatened with arrest, deportation or the loss of a license. Then, to add credence to their threats, scammers will call back from purporting to be the police or DMV, or will send threatening emails that look as though they are from the IRS.
The scammers are reportedly taking advantage of software to disguise their own telephone numbers to make it appear that they are calling from the IRS, the police or the local DMV office. In some cases, victims report that the thieves already knew the last four digits of their Social Security number.
J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said in a press release, “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”
If you get one of these calls, hang up immediately: the IRS will never initiate contact by phone (they prefer to do so by mail). To assure yourself that you don’t owe taxes, call the IRS back directly at 1-800-829-1040 and ask the IRS employees for assistance.
Once you have assured yourself that your taxes are in good shape, report the problem to the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration by calling 1-800-366-4484 or file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission and reference “IRS Telephone Scam” in the comments of the online form.