The phone rang on Saturday 6/7/2014 with the caller ID showing California. Normally I don’t answer when I don’t know who it is, but this time I did and got the following automated message:
“We need you or your retained attorney of records to return the call. The issue at hand is extremely time sensitive. I am Officer ______________ from Internal Revenue Service and the hotline to my position is _______________. I repeat its _______________. Don’t disregard this message, and do return the call before we take legal allegation against you. Good bye and take care.”
They called back about an hour later and left the same message on my voice mail. This can be a scary phone call for someone to get; after all it is someone claiming to be from the IRS who wants to discuss an issue about your taxes with you or your attorney. It is after the shock of the message wears off a little that it goes from scary to suspicious. One main point that cast suspicion immediately: the IRS would send a letter or notice, initially for any communication about an issue. As stated on their website, and in the following video, “many of these letters and notices can be dealt with simply, without having to call or visit an IRS office”.
The other issue with the phone call is that it wasn’t directed toward any one person. Not to mention the grammatical and word usage issues. For example, the term “allegation” isn’t correct, the word should have been “action”.
According to research I did it is a pretty sophisticated and nasty scam. According to J. Russell George at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “this is the largest scam of its kind” with “thousands of victims who have collectively paid over $1 million as a result of the scam.” He went on to say that the “increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming.”
The IRS Notification about the scam lists some of the its other characteristics:
- Use fake names and IRS badge numbers
- Use the last four digits of the victims SSN
- Spoof the IRS toll free number on caller ID
- Send bogus IRS emails to support claims
- Have background noise to appear to be in a call site
- Threaten jail time, drivers license revocation, deportation,
- Threaten that they will go after the victims bank accounts, businesses
- Demand the victim get a prepaid card, credit card, or wire order to immediately pay them
- They will hang up and call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV with the caller ID spoofed
This scam has been going around for some time. It isn’t the only tax related scam that is out there. Keep in mind the IRS also does not ask for personal or financial information via email, phone, or social media. Remember that the IRS will initially send a letter about any tax issue that you have as mentioned in this video:
Some of the things you can do:
- Hang up.
- You can contact the IRS directly to determine if you actually do owe any money.
- You can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the FTC (add IRS Telephone Scam to the comments section).
- If they send an email: do not reply, do not open attachments, do not click on any link inside the email. You can forward the full email with headers to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original video was changed to private or removed from the IRS YouTube video list. It was replaced with an updated video that can be seen above. The original sentence, “The IRS doesn’t just show up at the door, or send emails as they mention in this video:” was changed to the above.
The updated video was removed from the IRS Youtube site. It was replaced with an updated video that can be seen above.
Understanding your IRS Notice or Letter (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Understanding-Your-IRS-Notice-or-Letter)
TIGTA Warns of “Largest Ever” Phone Fraud Scam Targeting Taxpayers (http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/press/press_tigta-2014-03.htm)
IRS Reiterates Warning of Pervasive Telephone Scam (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Reiterates-Warning-of-Pervasive-Telephone-Scam)
Tax Scam Consumer Alerts (http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts)
IRS Contact (http://www.irs.gov/uac/How-to-Contact-the-IRS-1)
TIGTA Contact for Reporting Fraud Waste and Abuse (http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report.shtml)
FTC Complaint Assistant (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1)