Police warn residents about tax scam
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon wants residents of Williams to be wary of criminals who impersonate Internal Revenue Service and Treasury employees this filing season.
Nixon said the criminals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers claiming to be IRS officials and demand that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards, money orders or wire transfers from their banks.
"We've already had two or three of them reported in the city," Nixon said. "Prescott's getting inundated with them."
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) receives reports nationwide of thousands of contacts every month in which individuals fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials make unsolicited calls and "robocalls" to taxpayers demanding that they send them cash.
"The phone fraud scam has become an epidemic, robbing taxpayers of millions of dollars of their money," said J. Russell George, inspector general of TIGTA.
TIGTA has received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of more than 5,000 victims who have collectively paid more than $26.5 million as a result of the scam.
"The number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is growing at an alarming rate," George said. "At all times, especially around the time of the tax filing season, we want to make sure that taxpayers are alerted to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals," he said, adding, "Do not become a victim."
George added the fraud scheme is a crime of opportunity.
"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you do not pay immediately, that is a sign that it is not the IRS calling, and your cue to hang up," he said. "Again, do not engage with these callers. If they call you, hang up the telephone."
George noted that the scam has hit taxpayers in every state in the country. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with being charged for a criminal violation, a grand jury indictment, immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver's license.
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:
use 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; and
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 someone calls claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here's what to do:
If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
If you do not owe taxes, fill out the "IRS Impersonation scam" form on TIGTA's website, www.tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.
TIGTA encourages taxpayers to be alert to phone and e-mail scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any social media. You should forward scam e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.