Scammers are constantly coming up with different tactics to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. A common ploy often reported to Better Business Bureau is scammers impersonating government officials. Recently, BBB of Central New England has received several phone calls from consumers stating they are being contacted by people claiming to be with the IRS. Consumers state the person is looking for information, stating they owe money, and many are threatened and demanded to send money. Consumers are contacted by phone, the nature of the contact varies, but one thing for sure is that these are scammers impersonating the IRS to gather information and scare consumers into taking action.
Consumers should know that the IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone or by email. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. When a scammer calls they are frequently insulting or hostile, in an attempt to scare their potential victims. Often times they threaten to arrest, garnish wages, shut off utilities, revoke a drivers license or use other ways to evoke fear, hoping that the consumer will take action and send money with looking into the matter further. Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS.
Other 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. They may spoof other numbers to make it appear to be a local call, or from the Washington DC area.
• Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
• 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, to further try to make the threat seem legitimate.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, BBB offers the following tips:
• 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.
• If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
This type of scam can take on many forms, be aware that there are other unrelated scams such as a lottery sweepstakes and debt relief solicitations that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS, too. BBB encourages consumers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. If you receive a suspicious email, do not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@IRS.gov.