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IRS phone scam still a threat

$1 million in losses

Published: Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 30, 2014 3:08 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO — Tax season may be over but that has not stopped scammers from continuing to pose as IRS officials and making calls threatening jail, deportation and loss of property. Thousands of calls have been made to individuals across the country including northern Illinois with total losses around $1 million.

Callers to the Better Business Bureau serving northern Illinois say they have been left voicemail messages stating they need to contact the IRS immediately or they would face legal consequences. Other messages threatened arrest by U.S. Marshals for failure to pay the correct amount of taxes.

Hoffman Estates resident Bert Adams said “I had a phone message from Kelly Gray who said she worked for the IRS and that I was to call the IRS right away.” This call was less threatening and demanding than other calls as Adams noted her sign-off was “Good bye and take care.”

John Strandin of Rockford said he and his wife received two calls from a man who claimed his wife had not correctly filed her returns for the last six years. Standin said, “We knew it was a scam because my wife has not filed an individual tax return in more than 10 years.”

All calls to Adams and Strandin came from the 202 area code which services the Washington, D.C., area.

“It is a safe bet that the phone numbers that showed on their caller I.D. were 'spoofed numbers,'” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving northern Illinois. “It is a common practice of scammers to hide their real phone number from their intended victim. In some cases they have even 'spoofed' the IRS’s legitimate '800' customer service number.”

In addition to claiming to be from the IRS, other individuals say they have been called by people stating they were with the U.S. Treasury; although it is a different government agency, the scam remains the same.

Scott Smuck of Rockford said “I was told I did not file my 2010 taxes correctly, and I owed $1,000 and needed to pay it immediately or they would seize my property and bank account and I would be arrested by the U.S. Marshal.” Smuck was instructed not to hang up until he paid the money. “I was even told what store to go to and get a GreenDot card.” The call lasted one hour and 49 minutes.

According to the IRS, the agency never contacts taxpayers by phone asking for money. They also never contact taxpayers by email. If there is an issue with the IRS that requires your response, the contact would be made by U.S. mail.

If you receive one of these scam phone calls the BBB recommends:

Hang up — Don’t provide any information over the phone. Call the IRS directly using the phone number found on the http://www.irs.gov website or in the phone book.

Protect personal information — In response to an incoming call, never give out any personal or financial information such as your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or any passwords and other identifying information.

Contact the FCC — Let the Federal Communications Commission know about ID spoofers by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC or file a complaint at www.fcc.gov/complaints.

Contact the FTC — File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. From the complaint homepage, select “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” In the notes, include “IRS Telephone Scam.”

For more information on scams, visit www.bbb.org.

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