Seeing a spike in the last week of consumer calls regarding unsolicited phone calls from individuals pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is reminding all Rhode Islanders that the IRS does not contact individual taxpayers via telephone or email demanding immediate payment on alleged taxes owed.
In this most recent wave of the IRS scam, individuals are contacting taxpayers via telephone, telling them they owe back taxes and that if they do not provide immediate payment, the IRS will take legal action. In many cases, this outfit will leave a voicemail with a return phone number, which is most likely a "spoofed" phone number to give the scammers the appearance of being legitimate. The callers demand payment by credit cards, prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. The amount of alleged back taxes being owed varies from call to call, with reports of some consumers being told they owe approximately $8,000 in back taxes.
"It is important to remember that the IRS never calls individual taxpayers demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not threaten imminent arrest for failure to pay back taxes. These calls are scams. Don't be fooled by the legitimate-appearing phone number or a person who says they are a special agent. Scam artists are using technology to their advantage to pull the wool over the eyes of hard-working, taxpaying citizens. It is despicable, and the best way to stop this, and other scams, is to be a savvy and smart consumer," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Kilmartin recommends that consumers receiving these calls, and others like it, do the following:
1. Hang up the phone. 2. If the individual leaves you a call-back phone number, do not call it. Look online or call directory assistance for an official phone number of the state or federal agency. 3. Never provide any bank account or other personal or financial information to a person or company that you don't know. 4. Do not wire money to a person or company you don't know.
The IRS is requesting those that receive the call to report it to the Treasury Inspector General at (800) 366 4484 or www.tigta.gov.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit
The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams. For more information, please visit www.riag.ri.gov or call (401) 274-4400.