Tax season may be over but that has not stopped scammers from continuing to pose as IRS officials and making calls threatening jail time and loss of property. Thousands of calls have been made to individuals nationally with total losses around one million dollars. Officials with the Better Business Bureaus (BBB) report that consumers have received calls and voicemail messages stating they need to contact the IRS immediately or they would face legal consequences. Other calls threatened arrest by U.S. Marshals for failure to pay the correct amount of taxes.
BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa has been notified by a consumer in Hickman Nebraska that she received a message on her answering machine from the IRS on July 15th. The consumer returned the call at 8:15 am on July 16th. The “IRS official” who answered the phone told her that she was delinquent in paying some of her taxes in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and she owed the IRS $2,704.42. She was also notified that this information had been sent to a “high court” in Washington DC, that this was a time-sensitive issue and that she would need to pay a portion of the amount owed immediately or she would be arrested that day.
The caller stayed on the phone with the consumer while she went to her bank, withdrew $500, then drove to the nearest CVS Pharmacy and had the money transferred to a Green Dot MoneyPak as instructed. As soon as she returned to her vehicle, the caller asked her for the numbers on the back of the card. After giving him this information, she told him that she would have to get the rest of the money from her husband. The “IRS official” gave her another phone number to use to let him know when she had the additional funds. The consumer stated, “So I called my husband and then he called BBB, and all things came to a stop.” The man continues trying to contact her on her cell phone, but she does not answer.
BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty says “The IRS never contacts taxpayers by phone requesting money. They also never contact taxpayers by email. If there is an issue with the IRS that requires your response, the contact would be made by U.S. mail.”
The BBB recommends the following tips if you receive one of these scam phone calls:
. Hang Up – Don’t provide any information over the phone. Call the IRS directly using the phone number found on their legitimate website.
. Protect Personal Information – In response to an incoming call, never give out any personal or financial information such as your Social Security number, financial information or any passwords and other identifying information.
. IRS Contacts via U.S. Mail – If a caller claiming to be an IRS agent notifies you of an outstanding tax debt, but you haven’t received official notification from the IRS through the United States Postal Service, it is most likely a scam.
. Look Out for Spoofing – Part of scammers’ sophisticated tactics include ‘spoofing,’ which happens when the caller masks their own number and causes the number of a well-known service, like the IRS, to appear on caller ID.
. Don’t give out the number on the back of a MoneyPak -Avoid requests that require you to purchase a MoneyPak and provide the card number via email or by phone.
. Treat MoneyPak cards like cash – Unlike credit cards, MoneyPak transactions can never be reversed.
. Contact the FTC – File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. From the complaint homepage, select “Other” and then “Imposter Scams”. In the notes, include “IRS Telephone Scam”.
If you or someone you know receives a threatening phone call claiming to be with the US government, report it to BBB by calling 800-649-6814 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information you can trust, visit bbbinc.org.