I was reading the Sunday morning newspaper when a headline caught my eye: Federal Agents Arrest 20 In IRS Scam With Ties To India. Being a former federal agent and having recently written about three dozen posts and articles about a variety of scams (including this one about 2016 tax scams) – I was truly interested in the content.
If you get one of these calls, it is not the U.S. government calling you. Even if your caller ID says, as it did in many of these instances, ‘U.S. government,’ ‘I.R.S.’ or some other government agency, it is not the U.S. government; it is a scam.
The article summarized that Federal authorities had arrested 20 people across the United States and charged others overseas. The investigation revealed an in-depth IRS scam based on intimidation and fear.
The con started with a phone call. The scammers had done their homework, and were targeting immigrants and the elderly throughout the United States. The callers were sitting at phone banks in India working with associates in the states called “runners”, who would facilitate cashing and transferring the funds.
The telephone pitch was straightforward and scary: I am an officer with the IRS. My badge number is 1038. You owe money to the IRS. Either pay up now or law enforcement officials will be at your front door to arrest you within thirty minutes.
Many people took the bait and sent the money as instructed by the scammers.
Sometimes cash payments were made to runners who came to the homes. They also collected money via Western Union and money orders.
This technique used in this scam is an old one. Most current scams are updated variants on old scams. This one differed in that the scammers also accepted payment by gift cards. Once gift cards were purchased by the victims, they would give the scammers the numbers on the gift cards over the phone.
The targets of all these scammers were easily identifiable by public records across two main criteria. First, they preferred people that actually had tax liens and owed money to the IRS. Second, they targeted people who had already paid monies owed to the IRS. The victims were then convinced by the scammers that they still had a balance and that needed to be paid immediately.
Martin Investigative Services receives dozens of calls each month from people who have been bitten by various IRS scams. These callers have paid anywhere from $300 to over $48,000 to scammers. And we never take these cases as their money is never going to be retrieved.
I will continue to write and speak about this issue although at times it feels like I’m shoveling sand at the ocean.
J. Russell George, a U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration recently stated that “Since 2013, more than two million people reported getting solicitations and about 10,000 of them ended up paying some amount of money to the scammers.”
Leslie Caldwell, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, advised she had a message for Americans: “If you get one of these calls, it is not the U.S. government calling you. Even if your caller ID says, as it did in many of these instances, ‘U.S. government,’ ‘I.R.S.’ or some other government agency, it is not the U.S. government; it is a scam. The U.S. government does not operate in this manner.”