With tax season in full swing, the "IRS Scam" seems to once again be targeting Rhode Islanders. "In the past two days our Consumer Protection Unit has received more than a dozen calls alerting us that the scam artists are back," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. According to alert consumers who notified the Consumer Protection Unit, individuals are contacting taxpayers via telephone purporting to be from the IRS. The caller claims that the taxpayer owes back taxes that must be paid immediately – or the taxpayer will be arrested or even deported. The caller demands that the payment be made on the spot via pre-paid debit card, wire transfer, credit card or authorized bank account withdrawal. If the taxpayer questions the caller, the scam artist in many cases becomes rude and threatening.
"While none of the consumers who contacted our office fell victim to the threats of arrests, we need to alert all Rhode Islanders that this scam is on the rise and the red flags to be on the lookout for. The number one rule people need to remember is that neither the IRS, nor any legitimate government agency, will ever call individual taxpayers to demand immediate payment or imminent arrest. If you receive a call like this, please hang up, and then contact our office so that we can warn other consumers," added Kilmartin.
With March 1-7, 2015 being National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Kilmartin is sharing information through Twitter and his website to help Rhode Islanders become savvier consumers and avoid being defrauded. During the week, Attorney General Kilmartin is posting a daily "video tip," including a message about the IRS scam: http://youtu.be/UcBj1_jzpAQ.
Kilmartin reminds consumers that thieves who run this scam often: o Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers. 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. o Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles. Again, using spoofing software or pre-paid cell phones, the caller ID again appears to support their claim. 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 bank account or other personal or financial information to a person or company that you don't know. o Do not wire money to a person or company you don't know. o Alert the Office of Attorney General by calling the Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400.
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.