A recent widespread phone scam has begun to make the rounds in which callers hounded US citizens and claimed to be agents of the IRS. These phone calls would explain that the individual had failed to file his tax return correctly, and that the amount owed had to be paid immediately.
Some individuals have already lost tens of thousands of dollars in some of these cases, and the success of the scam has only caused the thieves to ramp up their efforts to steal from even more citizens.
The scam initially involved live callers who posed as IRS agents, often providing bogus names and phony badge numbers to make it seem authentic. These imposters also recited the last four digits of the victims’ Social Security numbers, leading many of them to believe this was real.
The callers instructed the victims to resolve their alleged tax issues by making payment through prepaid debit cards or through wire transfer. Other callers demanded credit card numbers to process the payment over the phone.
As word of the scam has spread, thieves have taken the abuse a step further. The script of the phone calls has always ranged from threatening to downright abusive, but now victims report that they were told the agent would be filing a police report with the victims’ local police departments and with their employers if they didn’t make payment immediately. They blackmailed the victims with threats of being arrested or potentially fired.
Now, thieves have even taken to using “robocallers,” which are automated systems that dial phone numbers and play a recorded message. Apparently, the work of calling individuals one at a time has proven to be too much for the thieves, and these automated systems can direct dial multiple individuals at the same time, one call after another. These messages direct the victims with instructions on how to pay the alleged fine while still promising threats of serious legal trouble for failure to comply.
It is important that the public understands the IRS will never place a phone call to demand action such as this. This process of informing you of any fees, fines, or penalties, when handled legitimately, always involves a paper letter sent through the mail. You are not responsible for making a payment to anyone from the IRS over the phone or via prepaid services.
If you receive a phone call like this one, hang up immediately; some victims have reported receiving follow-up phone calls and emails, but this is just another intimidation tactic. If the bogus IRS agent claims to have your Social Security number or actually does have the last four digits, it’s a good idea to put a freeze on your credit report with the three reporting agencies. It would be an inconvenience, but the caller did have access to your SSN somehow, so it’s better to block any attempts to use your data. Make sure that you monitor your credit report with regular checks with the three reporting agencies, and be sure to not fall victim to a scam, no matter how real it may seem.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.