Odds are good you or a loved one has gotten at least one of the calls: a man or woman claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service says you owe money to the government, and if you don’t pay up immediately with pre-paid money cards, threatens to have you thrown in jail.
This scam has become so widespread, the U.S. Treasury Department today called it the biggest case of impersonation fraud to ever hit the agency.
Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee in Washington D.C., Timothy Camus, the Treasury Department’s deputy inspector general for investigations and tax administration, said the ongoing scam has claimed thousands of victims in every state, with reported losses totaling more than $15.5 million nationwide.
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The top five states for total dollar losses by victims are California ($3,840,000), New York ($1,352,732), Texas ($795,884), Florida ($760,000) and Virginia ($648,363).
Joy and Carl Hecht of Glendora are among the nearly 400,000 people who’ve reported receiving the calls.
"[They] keep getting more aggressive…threatening to send the sheriff to your house," Joy Specht says.
"When someone accuses you of tax evasion and fraud, it gets your attention," adds Carl Specht.
Camus, from the Treasury Department, says tracking down suspects has become a top priority.
Based on reviewing the complaints submitted to the government, federal investigators believe the calls are now being placed from more than one source.
"The scam is the subject of an ongoing, multi-agency investigation," Camus told the Senate panel.
While Camus’ team believes there may be more than one source of these calls, and that some are possibly based overseas, "we are investigating some of the individuals who process the money [in the U.S.]," he says.
"We arrested two individuals…for their role in converting the prepaid money cards."
Camus says one suspect told investigators "she had used the cards to purchase approximately $5000 in money orders per day, six days a week, since November 2013, or roughly $900,000 in money order purchases between November 2013 and July 2014.”"
Camus emphasized that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the IRS call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a notice.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Remember, also, the IRS does not initially use email, text messages, or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving taxes owed or refunds.
For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.
If you have been targeted by this scam, report the incident to TIGTA at www.tigta.gov by clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner, or call the TIGTA hotline at 1-800-366-4484.
In addition, contact the FTC and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at www.ftc.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. They can help you with a payment issue.
If you have a tip on this story — or anything else — the I-Team wants to hear from you. Give us a call at 818-520-TIPS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.