Locals increasingly targeted by phone scams
Characteristics of this 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 DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
What to do about it
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what the real IRS says you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such 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 some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
EAGLE — Mike’s wife was on her way to meet him when her cell phone rang. The caller claimed he was from the Eagle police department, that he had a warrant for her arrest because, he claimed, she owed the IRS $3,700.
If she didn’t pay, then she’d be arrested, said the guy posing as a cop.
He wasn’t a cop, he was lying, local police said, and so was the guy who called next.
As the fake cop hung up, he said the next call she’d get was from an IRS agent in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
These scammers are thorough, Mike said.
The number that popped on the caller ID was a back door number to the Eagle PD. He gave her seemed to be a legitimate badge number.
The phone number and address were real for the IRS office in Pacific Palisades, California.
Pay now, not later!
“The person comes on the line with a badge number and says if you don’t pay right away they’ll arrest you. It can make it tough to think clearly,” Mike said.
The guy posing as an IRS agent told her if she talked to anyone else, or hung up the phone, she was breaking the contract. They’d sweep all her accounts, seize her assets and have her arrested.
“The guy posing as an IRS agent had case numbers, her Social Security Number, her mom’s maiden name. He had everything in a file in front of him,” Mike said.
But she’d heard enough and hung up anyway.
The fake cop called right back and started hardlining her, saying he heard she’d hung up and broken the contract, and that he was on his way to arrest her.
She pulled the money out of the bank and bought prepaid bank cards, as instructed by the fake IRS agent, and dropped them in a mail box at the post office.
She and Mike called Green Dot, the company that issued those prepaid cards, and learned that this scam is all-too common.
Then they went to the post office, where the postmaster pulled their letter out of the outgoing mail. Turns out, she was so flustered that she forgot to put postage on the envelope.
Luckily, Mike and his are not out any money, but they’ve frozen all their bank accounts.
“People need to know about this,” Mike said.
IRS won’t do that, commissioner says
This sophisticated phone scam has been around for a couple years, said the IRS.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS, and that it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, then they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.
“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves.”
The IRS will never ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, Werfel said.
“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.
Werfel said that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur through the mail.