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IRS Scam Getting More Aggressive

Attorney General Offers Help on How to Spot the Scam

A new twist on a familiar scam. While consumers are getting more savvy on how to spot the traditional "IRS scam," new information is emerging that those behind the scam have added a new layer to it, hoping to confuse and fool unsuspecting and honest taxpayers.

"Just when we are on to the scam and alert consumers what to look for, these outfits change up the game and, as a result, people are more likely to fall for it," said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

Traditionally, the scammers would call a consumer stating they were calling from the IRS to let the consumer know they owed back taxes and were going to be arrested if they did not make a payment right away, using a pre-paid debit card. More often than not, if the consumer did not answer the phone, the scammer would not leave a message, and move on to their next target.

Now, the scammers have created a sophisticated network of phone calls and return phone numbers in order to fool the consumer into thinking they are legitimate. More and more often, the scammers will leave a voicemail indicating they are from the IRS calling about a problem with your tax return and request the consumer call them back immediately.

Once on the telephone, the scammers have an answer for every question or comment the consumer makes:

If you say you are going to call your accountant, they are quick to tell you that the accountant can't help. The only way to fix the problem is through an "approved payment method." The scammer may say they have your social security number to prove they are the IRS, only to read off a bogus social security number in hopes the consumer will correct them and provide the real number back to them. If the consumer questions if the call is fake, the person on the phone will transfer the call to their "supervisor," in hopes to add another layer of legitimacy to their claims. They are extremely aggressive and may call multiple times, escalating their threats of imminent arrest if a payment is not made.

Attorney General Kilmartin strongly suggests not to engage the caller. The longer you are on the phone, the more likely you will be scammed into giving them money or personal identifying information.

"If someone calls claiming to be from the IRS, simply hang up. If you receive a voicemail from someone claiming to be from the IRS, do not call them back," said Kilmartin. "These criminals prey on the honest nature of citizens. With these outfits operating outside the reach and jurisdiction of traditional law enforcement, the best chance we have to stop it is through consumer education. Our consumers are on the front line of this scam, and they are our best weapon to end it by hanging up the telephone."

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS saying there is a problem with your tax return, you owe back taxes or asking for a payment, here's what to do after you hang up the phone:

Report the scam to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit by calling 401-274-4400 or emailing us at consumers@riag.ri.gov. Alerting us when the scam is in the area will help us warn others. If you think you may owe taxes or if you may have a problem with your tax return, contact the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the subject line in your complaint. Attorney General Kilmartin offers some additional tips from the IRS:

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 IRS will not ask you for your social security number over the telephone. Nor will the IRS read your social security number to you over the telephone.

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