Although Tax Season is over, scam artists are still ramping up efforts to defraud taxpayers. With an influx of complaints from local consumers – including several employees of the Office of Attorney General – Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is cautioning Rhode Islanders to be wary of calls claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
According to reports from vigilant consumers who recognized it as a scam, callers have been contacting local residents to allege that the taxpayer owes back taxes – and threatening arrest, driver's license suspension, or even deportation if payment is not made immediately. The caller demands that the payment be made in the form of a pre-paid debit card, wire transfer, credit card, or authorized bank account withdrawal. In many cases, the callers are rude and aggressive, and become hostile if the consumer questions them.
"This scam has been around for quite some time and continues to be one of the top complaints received by our Consumer Protection Unit. Particularly with the recent breach of the IRS's online 'Get Transcript' application, many consumers are nervous when they receive a call claiming to be from the IRS, and scam artists prey upon that fear," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "However, these scam artists targeted the wrong consumers when they called employees from the Office of Attorney General, who know how to spot a scam. We are reminding consumers that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment or threaten imminent arrest."
Attorney General 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.