Here at the BBB®, we have been receiving a number of inquiries from concerned consumers stating that they have been called by someone (most recently from Dallas, Texas), stating that the IRS has a lawsuit against them and has been trying to reach them for some time. The caller also instructs the recipient to call a number immediately to take care of the problem.
Many of the inquirers to the BBB have been elderly and naturally quite frightened when they received this information.
What the Bureau has found is that according to the IRS and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the toll-free IRS number is being spoofed and fictitious names and badge numbers are given to unsuspecting residents. Here’s the information received from IN Attorney General Greg Zoeller:
Taxpayers nationwide are reporting unsolicited calls from scammers who claim to be with the IRS and demand immediate payment. It has been deemed the largest-ever phone fraud scam targeting taxpayers, costing victims an estimated $5 million in total.
Potential phone scam victims might be told they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or that they are entitled to a large refund. Warning: Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. They also may be able to spoof the IRS toll-free number on Caller ID to make the call look legitimate.
Don’t fall victim to this scam. The IRS will never initiate contact over the phone. You will always be contacted first through official correspondence by mail. Additionally, the IRS will never ask you for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone.
The IRS also advises:
If you get a call like this, you might be unsure of what to do. Here are some things you can be sure of:
*Federal government agencies don’t ask people to send money for unpaid loans. If you still feel unsure, look up the official number of the agency the caller is pretending to represent so you can get the real story.
*There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back a debt.
*Even if a debt is real, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the debt is legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS that you think might be a scam, hang up immediately. Call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 yourself to confirm it was a scam. Then, report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484 or go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box to report the incident online.
You should also report these scams to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office by filing a consumer complaint online at www.indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1.888.834.9969.
While the BBB endeavors to provide accurate information to the public, changes in the law, facts or circumstances may have occurred since the foregoing was posted. The BBB recommends doing independent research and consulting professional advisors concerning a particular situation.
*This article was written for and published in the Evansville Courier & Press, Money Section, January 19, 2015.