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News release warns of massive, sophisticated phone scam

In a news release, IRS has reiterated earlier warnings of a “pervasive telephone scam” that has been ongoing for several months. According to IRS, potential victims, many of whom are recent immigrants, receive phone calls from individuals who claim to be IRS employees and threaten the victim with deportation or arrest. IRS emphasized that it always sends taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail and that it never asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the phone.

IRS warned of this scheme last October in IR 2013-84 (see Weekly Alert ¶  32  11/07/2013, first item), then warned of it again in its list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2014 (IR 2014-16; see Weekly Alert ¶  33  02/27/2014, first item). The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) also issued a warning on March 20, claiming that at that time, it had already received reports of at least 20,000 such telephone contacts (see Weekly Alert ¶  33  03/27/2014, second item).

Description of scam. Victims are contacted and generally told that they are entitled to big refunds or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to IRS. The scammers tend to use common names to identify themselves.

The scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number. They also may be able to spoof the IRS toll-free number on the victim’s caller ID, and they may send bogus, official-looking IRS emails to support their calls. Victims may hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

The scammers are frequently insulting or hostile, in an apparent effort to scare their potential victims. They also threaten the victims with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked.

After victims are threatened with jail time or driver’s license revocation, the scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID is similarly manipulated to support their claim.

What to do. If a taxpayer gets a phone call from someone claiming to be from IRS:


…if the taxpayer knows or thinks that he or she might owe taxes, call IRS at 1.800.829.1040, and IRS employees will help with the payment issue (if any);
…if the taxpayer doesn’t owe taxes or has no reason to think he or she does, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484; and
…if a taxpayer has been targeted by this scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at .


General vigilance. IRS also took the opportunity to encourage taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use IRS as a lure. IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email (or text messages, or other social media channels) to request personal or financial information, and also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

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