Thanks to a heads-up from savvy and smart consumers who recognized it as a scam and alerted the Consumer Protection Unit, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is warning all consumers to be on high alert for phone calls from individuals claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) demanding immediate payment for unpaid taxes.
Based on complaints filed with the Consumer Protection Unit, the caller threatens imminent arrest if the person does not pay the taxes. The caller demands payment in the form of a pre-paid debit card, credit card or authorized bank account withdrawal. In many cases, if the consumer questions the validity of the claim, the caller becomes hostile and insulting and sometimes threatens imminent arrest.
"We anticipate that the IRS scam will be hitting the area for the next several months as people prepare their taxes. And, with access to technology to hide their identity and location, combined with the vast amount of information available on the Internet, these con artists are becoming very good at sounding legitimate. The most important red flag to remember is that the IRS will never call and demand immediate payment." said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
Thieves who run this scam often: o Use common names and provide fake IRS employee identification numbers to sound legitimate. o Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling by using spoofing software or pre-paid cell phones. o Send bogus IRS e-mails to support the bogus calls.
If you get a call from someone who claims to be with the IRS asking you to pay back taxes, here's what you should do: o Hang Up! o Call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov. o Never provide any credit card or bank account information, especially bank account routing numbers, or other personal or financial information to a person or company that you don't know. o Never pay someone demanding payment over the telephone with a pre-paid debit card.
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.