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A call from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service or the U.S. Treasury Department can cause fear and concern, which is exactly what perpetrators of a common scam are hoping for when calling residents and demanding that they pay tax debts.
West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Capt. Holly Perez recently tweeted a warning about the scams. Sgt. Jeff Bishop, with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said people have called to complain about the scam, but did not know the number of incidents reported. IRS officials issued a warning about the scam and are trying to educate people about how to avoid becoming a victim.
“Any time somebody calls with something like that, people should always call to confirm with their local IRS office before they send any money,” Bishop said. “People who are out money file a report with us. There’s not a lot to go on usually. The money goes overseas and we can’t trace it.”
The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) confirmed that unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment are on the rise. The perpetrators fraudulently claim to be from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury Department.
Based on the approximately 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million.
“There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone and never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax debt. The IRS also never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification about tax liens or levies.
Potential phone scam victims may be told they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Perpetrators often give fake names and IRS badge numbers, and generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. Sometimes they are able to provide the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number or driver’s license number. They also replicate the IRS toll-free telephone number on caller ID systems to make it appear that the IRS is calling, and sometimes send bogus emails to support the telephone calls. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, the perpetrators sometimes hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police department or Department of Motor Vehicles.
People who receive the phone calls and think they owe back taxes are instructed to call the IRS at (800)829-1040. A legitimate IRS employee can help callers determine if there is a payment issue. Victims should report the incident to TIGTA at (800)366-4484.
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