On Tax Day, April 15th 2015, Congress held a hearing in which one of the biggest issues to be discussed was a skyrocketing scam of people posing as IRS Agents, and demanding Americans to make payments for their back taxes. This is a result of the largest and most persuasive IRS impersonation scam in it's history.
Scammers pose as IRS Agents, stating that there is an outstanding balance on a tax payers account and immediate payment is required. If no payment is received, tax payers are threatened that aggressive collective tactics will be taken, including being arrested, and in some cases deportation. Millions of people have been lured in by being contacted by these criminals, and unfortunately thousands have taken the bait. This problem is becoming a major issue. Complaints are on the rise, and we're not talking about a small jump here, it is at a staggering rate. Only 2,185 complaints were filed in 2013, but in 2014 there were nearly 55,000 complaints were received according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Fraudulent IRS calls were the number one complain that the FTC received last year, and is showing no signs of slowing down. It would be safe to assume that the number of people contacted is certainly much higher, for just like most other crimes, only a fraction are reported. Senator Claire McCaskill ( D- Missouri ) agrees, she stated “ This outrageous fraud is now much larger then even the numbers are saying.” Seems as if the issue is raising the eye brows of a few congressman. Mike Thompson (D-California) posted on his website about the scam and offered help to those who may be skeptical when it came to phone calls from IRS agents, and how to tell the difference between the two.
By The Numbers
The U.S. Treasury Department believes the number is somewhere around 400,000 tax payers that have been contacted, and filed complaints in the past two years. As a result, more the 3,000 people were conned, which led to more then $15,000,000 being paid combined. You can imagine that this is a heavy blow to not only the tax payers themselves, but as well as the government, especially given our countries current debt situation. Its predicted that around 10,000 calls are being made per week, which leads me to believe that there is no sign of this slowing down unless we educate the public on how not to fall into these scams. I have myself been contacted by one of these people posing to be an IRS Officer. In my experience the lady introduced herself as an officer, and that I owed a considerable amount, and that if I didn't pay that my local police department would be contacted. I had been previously notified about the scams that were taking place several months previously, and something just felt suspicious about the whole thing. So I simply asked the lady for her name and her ID number, and told her I would call her back. I then looked up a IRS number online and placed a call, to which I was informed that there is nobody under that name or ID number. I relayed the information to their specific department for these sort of issues. Preventive measures seem to be the best way to help one from falling victim.
How is this scam so successful?
Although the scam itself is not very sophisticated, it's easy to see why so many people are falling victim to these criminals. First and foremost, the scare tactics that are being used by the scammers are quite convincing. When one is threatened with criminal prosecution it usually gets their attention pretty quickly. Another tactic that is helping is who these criminals are targeting. Unfortunately senior citizens are the ones who are being most affected by this, because they are typically home, answer the phone, and have money. Immigrants are easy targets as well because they are trying to stay off the radar, and when the threat of deportation is mentioned it may cause one to act unnaturally. But non the less this problem has affected people from all walks of life in some shape or form. It's important to educate oneself so that they don't get stooped. Lastly the location of these individuals that are involved in the criminal activity are operating on foreign soil, which makes it much harder to track, let alone prosecute. Federal Agencies are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to tracking the thieves down.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
The IRS offers 5 helpful tips to differentiate IRS Tax Agents/Officers from the impostors.
The IRS Would Never:
Call and demand immediate payment, nor call without sending a bill first in the mail.
Demand one to pay without allowing them to question or appeal the tax debt.
Require specific payment methods. Ex- Prepaid Debit Card
Ask for your credit card number over the phone.
Verbally threaten or harass to bring in local police or other law enforcement agencies if no immediate payment is made.
Please educate yourself on these folks, to ensure that you do not become a victim too. If you ever have any questions or concerns you can always call the IRS themselves. Phone numbers are easily made available online on their website.