A nationwide phone scam in which impostor IRS agents threaten victims with arrest or deportation if they refuse to immediately settle tax debts has reportedly already bilked more than 1000 people out of nearly $5 million.
The scheme, which federal authorities have been investigating since 2013, involves callers claiming to be with the IRS. The fake agents demand payment of taxes, often claiming that police are on their way and insist on remaining on the phone while the victim drives to a store to make a payment by loading money onto a prepaid debit card, reports The Arizona Republic.
How to Tell You are Being Scammed
The most obvious red flag that you may be the victim of a scam is the method of payment requested by the scammers. The scammers instruct victims to purchase Green Dot Moneypak cards, a brand of prepaid debit card, then provide the account information over the phone, giving the scammer immediate access to the money on the card.
According to an IRS alert regarding the scam, IRS agents would never demand payments using specific prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, or accept payments over the phone. In addition, IRS agents don't make cold calls to tax payers regarding problems with their taxes; official IRS correspondences will come through the mail. Although failing to pay your taxes may lead to some form of IRS action, generally the IRS does not threaten ordinary citizens with arrest for simple mistakes or omissions on their income taxes.
The scams may otherwise be convincing, according to the IRS, due to several other tell-tale characteristics of the scam, including:
Scammers also typically make more than one call, often claiming to be local police or DMV threatening enforcement action against the victim.
What to Do If You Get a Scam Call
The IRS advises that anyone who believes they have been contacted by a scammer report the incident to the IRS by calling 1-800-366-4484. In addition, the IRS suggests reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.