If you’re like hundreds of thousands of Americans, you’ve gotten them. Official sounding phone calls from someone proclaiming they are from the IRS or even the FBI. They claim you are guilty of things like overdue taxes, or they are collecting a fine because you have not properly registered for insurance coverage. Or maybe they are just claiming to be updating their records. All you have to do is to supply your Social Security number, your bank account information and/or your credit card information and all is well. Right? Wrong.
While this happens throughout the year, spring is the time when these scam calls get even more prevalent. The best advice: Hang up. The IRS or any government agency will rarely call you on these topics.
While anyone can be victimized by these criminals, they really like to prey on seniors who are scared into cooperating. These callers can be aggressive and relentless.
A recent report from WTHR Channel 13 quotes Better Business Business Bureau President Tim Maniscalo saying that “Tax scams were number one on the BBB complaint list last year. More than 2,400 people received the calls.” These calls vary in what they are asking. Many of the most common this year are robocalls (sounding like a computerized voice) informing you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you that gives you a number to call. Respond and that’s where they get you – for sometimes very large sums of money. It can also lead to having your identity stolen.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes and the FBI is on the case more than ever before. The FBI said in a press release earlier this year, “A stolen identity is a powerful cloak of anonymity for criminals and terrorists…and a danger to national security and private citizens alike.”
Today’s scams are more pervasive and sophisticated than ever, including new online elements.
Besides the phone calls, many unsuspecting people are being scammed with online emails claiming to be from government agencies like the IRS or FBI. None of these agencies will ever request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any social media. You should forward scam e-mails to email@example.com. Do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has urged taxpayers to remain on high alert. “Over the past couple of years, over 5,000 victims have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of such scams. The phone fraud scam has become an epidemic, robbing taxpayers of millions of dollars of their money,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We are making progress in our investigation of this scam, resulting in the successful prosecution of some individuals associated with it over the past year. Over the summer, a ringleader was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison.
However, this is still a matter of high investigative priority.”
Many depend on caller ID to screen out unwanted calls, but that hasn’t stopped a wave of calls to Hoosiers claiming to be from the IRS.
The IRS generally first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order or wire a transfer. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone. The callers who commit this fraud often:
- Utilize an automated robocall machine.
- Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
- May know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
- Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
- Aggressively demand immediate payment to avoid being criminally charged or arrested.
- Claim that hanging up the telephone will cause the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes.
- Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
- Call a second or third time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.
If you get such a call, immediately hang up and contact any of these numbers to help you: The IRS at (800) 829-1040.
- Indianapolis FBI office (317) 595-4000.
- Indiana Attorney General (317) 232-6201
- Indiana Better Business Bureau (317) 488-2222
This information is provided as a public service by the Stinson Law Firm. Our goal is to provide you with peace of mind and protection of your assets and loved ones for the rest of your life.
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Our goal at Stinson Elder Law is to secure your present and future and leave you with the peace of mind you deserve. Contact us today.
Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.