CNN is reporting a tax scam which, while quite old, is apparently still way too effective. The IRS is reporting that they are getting complaints at the rate of 10,000 to 12,000 new complaints a week.
The scam goes like this. Someone calls you with a Washington, DC phone number and says you are under investigation; in danger of losing your home or that the authorities have been notified and will be there in 30 minutes.
The victims report that the caller knows information that they felt only the real IRS would know (or perhaps someone who bought data from the Anthem breach or one like it).
The victims were given specific instructions. The scammer stayed on the phone as one victim drove around Charlotte for five hours depositing $500 payments into a paypal account set up by the scammer. The scammer would give the victim store names, street names, etc.
Victims were of all types – a radio host, a minister, old people, immigrants. Even someone with a PhD.
On occasion, bank tellers and money wiring clerks would convince victims not to do it.
To be clear, the United States Government does not use a Paypal account. They also will ALWAYS mail you letters – sometimes way too many letters before they would ever take court action. In theory, IRS agents are not supposed to threaten you.
However, if new cases are showing up at the rate of 10 to 12 thousand new cases a week, this thing has legs.
People hear IRS, arrest, jail and they freak out. Understandable.
First thing to do is to get a call back number and hang up. Of course, the scammer is not going to want you to do that. Do it anyway. If they won’t give you a call back number, that is your first clue. IF the cops are really on their way, it won’t make a difference.
Next find someone you trust. Maybe a professional like a lawyer or accountant, but if you don’t have one of those or can’t afford one, at least a trusted friend who is not the target of the scam.
You can call the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484. They also have a specific web page set up to report this particular scam (link).
Some people have been conned out of as much as $16,000. Don’t be the next victim.