JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The IRS is warning taxpayers about the largest phone scam the agency has ever seen.
Criminals calling victims pretending to be IRS agents have stolen over $1 million from thousands of taxpayers in the largest such phone scam, according to the agency's watchdog on Thursday.
Treasury inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, said over 20,000 taxpayers have been targeted by false agents who claim victims owe taxes. They caller then demands they pay with a prepaid debit card or by wire transfer.
"They have the last four digits of their social security numbers and they contact them by phone," said Rhonda Prine with Liberty Tax.
They also use a common name and spoof the caller ID to show the IRS is calling. Prine said the IRS will always make contact through the mail.
"I have never incurred a phone call from the IRS, most time you call the IRS you're on the phone for 15 to 20 minutes waiting," she said. "If the IRS wanted to call you, they would set up an appointment with you by mail."
Prine said the scammer goes through great lengths to make the call sound legit.
"If you speak with the IRS, the first thing they're going to do is give you a 7 to 9 digit identification number and their name identifying them," Prine told Region 8 News.
And the caller will always follow-up with an email.
"Ask if they can contact me through mail being that the IRS doesn't, they will never send you an email, if you get an email from the IRS, it's going to be a fraudulent email," she said.
The caller claims the victim owe taxes and demand they pay with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The thieves then tell the caller they could be arrested, deported or lose their business or driver's license.
"If you received a phone call demanding money from the IRS, tell them to contact you through mail, the U.S. mail," Prine said.
And never give out any personal information over the phone.
According to a press release by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:
The callers who commit this fraud often:
- Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
- Know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
- Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
- Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
- Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here's what to do:
- If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
- If you don't owe taxes, call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.