Over the past year, a fake IRS agent phone scam has relieved over $5 million from about 1100 victims. Unscrupulous individuals are currently attempting to defraud by calling and impersonating IRS agents. Recently, these culprits have upped their game with a very aggressive and threatening campaign. It appears from calls that have been recorded that their main targets are seniors and immigrants.
This post discusses how the scam works, how the IRS actually operates, and what to do to if these scammers call you.
Here’s how the scam works:
You are sitting at home getting ready to have your breakfast and the phone rings. The caller states that he/she is an IRS agent. That in and of itself would make one lose their appetite. The purported “agent” gets to the point quickly. They advise you have been audited and demand you pay them money. You are told, if you don’t pay them the money owed there will be heavy fines imposed. When the taxpayer balks a little the caller then threatens jail time or deportation.
Their plan has been given much thought. Amazingly, the scammers have spoofed the caller ID, such that the identity of the caller reads “IRS” and the associated phone number is the IRS’ actual toll-free number. It is thought than many of these calls are made from a foreign country. This is why the caller is so aggressive and demanding, as they know they will never be caught.
Last NBC 4 in Los Angeles aired one of the many consumer warnings about the scam.
Some of the calls that had been recorded by citizens. Here are a few of the scare tactics the callers are using:
- “The IRS will mark a lien on your tax including your house, car and all your known bank accounts will be frozen and confiscated.”
- “Pay $52,000.00, prove yourself, lose your job, your property will be seized, everything will be seized.”
- “You’ve been audited and there’s this amount of money you have to pay, right away.”
You would think common sense would prevail, but given for a second that it “could be” an IRS agent probably gives one great pause. The idea that you could settle today for $4,000 versus $25,000 in fines or imprisonment might make the less than street-smart citizen willing “to do the deal.”
Many of us at Martin Investigative Service are former agents of the DEA, FBI, IRS or Secret Service. Please learn this valuable lesson. This is not how the IRS operates.
IRS representative Lourdes Souss says, “The IRS would never threaten you. The IRS would never do this kind of thing. First of all, the IRS would never contact you by phone, or visit your house, or send you an email.”
During the past few days, the law enforcement community has learned that the bogus callers really sound like a IRS agent. The reason? They have the taxpayer’s name, address, phone number and, most importantly, vital identification data such as dates of birth and social security numbers. That would give anyone pause and make the caller much more authentic.
So how do they get your money? Once you have bought into their pitch, you are instructed to proceed to a local pharmacy like CVC or the local supermarket like Albertsons and wire them your tax debt. These places have MoneyGram locations inside where you can wire funds to another person. The person in the foreign country can receive the funds or have a contact within the United States who can be the beneficiary of the person’s hard earned dollars.
Before writing this post I went to a local pharmacy to actual see how the MoneyGram was set up. I was surprised to actually see a warning sign indicating, “Stop scams. Never send money to someone you don’t really know.” Unfortunately, this warning has little impact on the citizens who simply just wants to get this issue behind them.
If you receive a call and someone states they are from the IRS or an IRS agent – hang up. Remember, the IRS does not work this way. You can report the call to the IRS at (800) 829-1040, and file a complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), which only takes a few minutes.
The tendency is to initially want to cooperate with the government representative. Do not buy in to their request to verify your date of birth or social security number. Based on this blog you should once again hangup. They generally don’t call back and move on to their next victim. There is no doubt that they have an endless list of potential victims. If there is a second call, the scammers will identify themselves as the local police department who are working in conjunction with the IRS. They will inform you that a plain clothes detective will be coming out to pick the funds owed by 4:00 p.m. that day. They even advise you that cash would be the preferred payment. If you hang up a second time, it is almost certain to be the last call from the bogus IRS agent.