PRINCETON — With tax season in full swing, Bureau County residents are urged to not fall prey to the latest phone scam dealing with alleged communication from the Internal Revenue Service.
According to J. Russell George, the treasury inspector general for U.S. Tax Administration, more than 20,000 taxpayers have been targeted in recent weeks by this “IRS phone scam” with a total or more than $1 million lost by thousands of victims.
In describing this latest scam, George said fake IRS agents call taxpayers saying the taxpayer owes taxes and needs to make immediate payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. Those who refuse are threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license, George said.
Complaints about this scam started last August but have escalated during filing season, with people targeted in nearly every state, George said.
“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” George said. “The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming.”
Taxpayers who do owe money are generally contacted first by mail through the U.S. Postal Service, George said. Also, legitimate IRS agents would never insist on payment by debit card or wire transfer, nor do they ask for credit card numbers over the phone, he said.
“If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling,” George said.
On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he’s not heard of any incidents of this IRS scam locally, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.
“It’s very obvious to me that no one should take any type of action on any telephone calls or emails supposedly from the IRS,” Thompson said. “The IRS does not contact people this way. Any communication from the IRS, if they need to contact a person, will begin with an official letter from the IRS.”
This latest IRS scam appears to be random in nature, targeting anyone, not just senior citizens, Thompson said. Scams are basically based on the premise that people are ethical and responsible and scammers will try to take advantage of people wanting to do what they are told is the right thing, he said.
Again, no one should do anything that requires some kind of immediate response, Thompson said. If there is any question about a phone call or email, the person should first contact a family member or his local law enforcement agency, he said.
In addition to the IRS phone scam, the IRS has also announced taxpayers have to be aware of a “phishing” scam in which the taxpayer receives an email that appears to be from the IRS and asks for personal information. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers vial email, texts or social media, the IRS has stated.
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