As we head into the height of tax season, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is reminding consumers to be aware of the signs of the pervasive "IRS scam," which continues to target law abiding citizens in Rhode Island and across the nation. Attorney General Kilmartin noted that his office has recently noticed an increase in calls from Rhode Islanders who had been contacted by the scammers posing as IRS agents. The caller typically threatens an individual with arrest for nonpayment of taxes and demands immediate payment over the phone.
According to a recent report, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), has "received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam."
TIGTA has stepped up its efforts to educate the public on how to spot the scam with the release of a new public service announcement in both English and Spanish. (Links provided below)
"No other scam has continued to persist for this long of a time period as the IRS scam," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "I am very concerned that individuals may fall victim to the scam between now and the tax filing deadline on April 15th. And, it's not just phone calls the public needs to worry about; these scammers have upped their communication to unsuspecting taxpayers using text messages and email as a way to back up their bogus phone call threats."
According the TIGTA, here's what you need to know:
- The IRS generally first contacts people by mail - not by phone - about unpaid taxes.
- The IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order, or wire transfer.
- The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.
The callers who commit this fraud often:
- Utilize an automated robocall machine.
- Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
- May know the last four digits of the victim's Social Security Number.
- Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
- Aggressively demand immediate payment to avoid being criminally charged or arrested.
- Claim that hanging up the telephone will cause the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes.
- Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
- Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here is what to do:
- If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
- If you do not owe taxes, fill out the "IRS Impersonation Scam" form on the TIGTA website, www.tigta.gov or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.
- Report the scam to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit by calling 401-274-4400 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alerting us when the scam is in the area will help us warn others.