A reader: I received a call from a man saying he was with the IRS. He told me I owed back taxes of over $2,000. They said that if I didn’t pay right now, I would be arrested. He said that if I didn’t, a police officer would be knocking on my door within the next 10 minutes and I would be arrested and thrown in jail. Can this really happen?
Action Line: No! This scam is a huge problem. Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continue to get reports from consumers all over our country. According to the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), 90,000 complaints have been filed to date and 1,100 victims have been identified who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams.
These scammers are very sophisticated and extremely aggressive. In order to convince people that they are really IRS agents, the scammers use several tricks including a program to make the IRS’s toll-free number appear on the caller ID, call center background noise, and false agent badge numbers. If the consumer is not already convinced, they may even give you the last four digits of your Social Security number. Sometimes they will even tell consumers that they are owed a refund to obtain personal information. And this scam goes even further. Those who hang up on the caller may receive another call soon after from a scammer claiming to be a police officer or a DMV agent. If consumers do not cooperate with the scammer, they threaten arrest or deportation. In many reports, consumers have advised that the scammer becomes very hostile.
IRS advises consumers that the agency:
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▪ Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
▪ Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations.
▪ Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
BBB suggests that you should never give any money or credit card info over the phone to someone that you do not know. If you give out credit card info, you are authorizing that person to add charges to your account. If they ask you to get a preloaded card, that’s like handing them cash.
Many scammers use scare tactics like the threat of an arrest to get you to give up the info. Don’t do it. If you think you might have some back taxes that need to be paid, call the IRS yourself, at (800) 829-1040. Verify it. The scammer might be able to use a real IRS number on the caller ID but if you call IRS yourself, you can be sure you are talking to an actual IRS agent.
If you have received one of these calls or become a victim, you can call TIGTA at (800) 366-4484 to report it. You may also want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov. If you think you have been a victim of this scam please contact us at 1 (800) 675-8118.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.