Since we're barreling toward April 15th, it seems like a good time for a warning about a really bad tax scam that's raking in millions for the scammers at taxpayers' expense.
They are very convincing when they call. They have a Washington phone number and can cite your financial history down to the cent.
They say you're under investigation, in danger of losing your home, or worse, your freedom -- unless you pay thousands of dollars on the spot.
But they're not real. And you're not in trouble. Not unless you take it seriously. This is a scam.
A big one. Federal authorities say it's the largest IRS impersonation scam they've ever seen -- swindling victims out of more than $15 million since it began in 2013.
"They have information that only the Internal Revenue Service would know about you," said Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations with the Treasury Department. "It's a byproduct of today's society. There's so much information available on individuals."
Using identity theft technology, the thieves have successfully victimized more than 3,000 people in the past two years, although the Treasury Department cautions that number is only documented cases and the true number might be higher. Camus said they've recorded more than 366,000 reports of contact with the scammers, and it's increasing at a rate of 10,000 to 12,000 a week.
Authorities believe the thieves are operating out of India, using phishing technology to make it appear they're IRS agents in Washington. Read on...
Here's the IRS guidance on the scam.
Things the IRS will never do:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- 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.
Things you should do if you are targeted by the scammers:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
- If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Finally, share the facts with everyone you know, so they won't become targets either.