Reports estimate that nationwide, this scam has cost taxpayers $20 million in losses; Consumers targeted report that scam artists are using "spoofed" phone numbers to appear to be from legitimate organizations
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is warning consumers of a resurgence in reports of the persistent, aggressive "IRS scam." The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that it has received approximately 600,000 complaints about this scam since October 2013, and is also aware of nearly 4,000 victims who have collectively reported over $20 million in financial losses as a result of tax scams.
According to consumers targeted in this latest version of the scam, callers are using "spoofed" phone numbers to appear on caller ID to be from legitimate organizations, including the local office of the FBI.
Alert consumers recognized the scam and notified the Consumer Protection Unit, reporting that the callers allege the taxpayer owes back taxes – and threaten arrest, driver's license suspension, or even deportation if payment is not made immediately. The callers demand that 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.
"The IRS scam is one of the most persistent scams out there and continues to target consumers across the country. We urge Rhode Islanders to be vigilant and to be extremely wary of unsolicited phone calls that request any type of personal information and especially payment," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "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 threaten imminent arrest. If you receive a call like this, please hang up, and contact our office so that we can warn other consumers."
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 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.