IRS warns on super summer scam scourge

IRS sees increased automated calls and new tactics from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

In the ideal world the infamous Internal Revenue Service call scam should have faded away replaced by some other stupid ploy but alas…

The IRS said today that the scammers have ramped up their efforts to grab even more money -- over $26 million -- and rip-off even more people -- -- 5,000 or so since last count.

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The Internal Revenue Service this week warned taxpayers to stay vigilant against an increase of IRS impersonation scams in the form of automated calls and new tactics from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

The IRS said it has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t agree to pay.

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In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.

Indeed…In July the Federal Trade Commission also warned of this seemingly ludicrous demand – that gift cards would some how placate the real IRS. From Network World’s Paul McNamara Buzzblog column on the FTC warning: “People have told the FTC about scammers who called and demanded iTunes cards as “payment.” Bogus “IRS agents” told people they owed back taxes and would be arrested soon, unless they bought an iTunes card and gave the code to the “agent.” Phony “government grant” officers called and promised a big payout, after the person bought an iTunes card and read the code to the “grant officer.” Other fraudsters told people their grandkids were in jail and the only way to help was — you guessed it — to buy an iTunes card and read the code over the phone. All the stories were false.”

“It used to be that most of these bogus calls would come from a live-person. Scammers are evolving and using more and more automated calls in an effort to reach the largest number of victims possible,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics.” 

In the past the IRS has noted a number of new variations on old schemes:

  • Scammers alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it seem like they are with the IRS or another agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. They use fake names, titles and badge numbers. They use online resources to get your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They even go as far as copying official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.
  • Scammers will even provide their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where the victim can obtain a means of payment such as a debit card. And in another new variation of these scams, con artists may then provide an actual IRS address where the victim can mail a receipt for the payment – all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.
  • Scammers try to scare people into reacting immediately without taking a moment to think through what is actually happening.
  • Scam artists often angrily threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation or other similarly unpleasant things. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests, sometimes through “robo-calls,” via phone or email. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your reply.

+More on Network World: Yikes: 10,000 IRS impersonation scam calls are placed every week+

The IRS once again reminded everyone it will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

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