IRS warns of new phone scam

IRS warns of new phone scam
The IRS says average tax refunds are down 8 percent so far this tax season.

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The IRS is warning the public of a new phone scam where scammers are impersonating IRS employees.

The new scam deals with a independent organization within the IRS called the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

Thieves are making unsolicited phone calls to victims fraudulently claiming to be from the TAS or the IRS using “spoof” telephone numbers to imitate the numbers of the IRS and TAS offices in Houston and Brooklyn.

The calls may also be ‘robo-calls’ that request a call back. In the scam, once the taxpayer returns the call the thieves will request personal info including Social Security numbers or individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN).

The IRS reminds taxpayers that it does not initiate calls “out of the blue." Typically, the TAS and IRS only contact taxpayers if they have contacted the department first.

Other variations of the IRS impersonation phone scams include demanding immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers in these scams are often hostile and abusive.

Alternatively, scammers will sometimes tell victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information. The IRS says that other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers using fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
  • Scammers knowing the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers ‘spoofing’ caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling.
  • Scammers sending bogus IRS emails to victims to support their calls.
  • Victims hearing background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver’s license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles with caller ID that supports their claim.

Here are some things the scammers may do but that the IRS will never do. Any of these are tell-tale signs of a scam.

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call about an unexpected refund.

When you speak to the scammers hang up as soon as you believe that it is a fraudulent call. The longer the con artist is engaged the more opportunity they will believe exists to trick you which may prompt more calls.

If you believe you are the target of a fraudulent IRS or TAS call you can report them to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov with the subject: IRS Phone Scam. You may also call the IRS at 800-366-4484, use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page, or report it to the Federal Trade Commission via their website by adding “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes section.

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