By: Sharon Aron Baron
I received a phone call today from someone telling me that an arrest warrant was underway if I didn’t pay my taxes from 2011. I picked up my cellphone and camera and recorded the call as I could tell I was going to have fun with this.
Although it is not legal to record phone conversations without the other party’s consent, I knew this was a scam and the perpetrators would never likely file charges.
In the call, from 213-455-2087, the foreign-sounding person tells me (by name) that I owe over $4,000 in taxes. An arrest warrant is underway and I’ll go to jail for six months. I know I didn’t owe money, and this was also verified later by my accountant, Elliot Kessler C.P.A. who told me that I was the fourth person to call him today about this scam.
The woman hands the call over to a supervisor who will work it out with me if I am interested in resolving this issue. He gets on the line, asks if I have the money available, and gives me instructions on how to purchase an IRS Voucher at Winn Dixie. He wants me to use my cell phone so he can give me step-by-step instructions. This is probably to keep me engaged so I wouldn’t verify this was a scam with anyone. I insisted I didn’t have a cellphone because there was no way I wanted these people to badger me after today.
On September 4, the IRS issued a strong warning for consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide.
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. For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.
People have reported a particularly aggressive phone scam in the last several months. Immigrants are frequently targeted. Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile – apparently to scare their potential victims.
Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Other things the IRS wants you to be aware of:
- 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.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- 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, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
- 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.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have reported this scam to the IRS and I hope you will too if you receive a call like this.