The IRS is issuing a warning about a phone scam that it says has now taken consumers for more than $5 million.
The scammers are targeting thousands of people with these calls, and if you don't pick up the phone they will now leave a frightening message on your voice mail or answering machine.
Woman "Unnerved" by Call
Theresa Howard recently received one of these calls on her home phone.
"We screen our calls, and we don't answer if we don't recognize the number," she said. So she says the caller left the following message:
"I'm calling regarding enforcement actions executed by the US Treasury intending (sic) your serious attention."
Weaver said "he left a message that we had some problem with our taxes, we needed to call immediately! It was very unnerving."
The caller implied that she was behind in her taxes and needed to wire money, or she would be arrested and charged.
Her answering machine recording also included the man saying "ignoring this will be an intentional second attempt to avoid initial appearance before a Magistrate Judge or a Grand Jury for a federal criminal offense"
Howard, shocked, looked up the call online, where she breathed a sigh of relief: she learned it is a scam targeting taxpayers from coast to coast.
Thousands Targeted, Many Falling for it
The IRS says it's been flooded with complaints about these calls, receiving nearly 100,000 complaints in the past 2 years.
It's identified more than 1,000 victims who have fallen for it, who the agency says have sent more than $5 million to the scammers so far.
Howard understands how easily someone can fall for it. "If I'm unnerved," she said, "and I have this knowledge, what about a person that has very little knowledge about taxes, or an older person?"
Indeed, the IRS says many people are falling for it, and are either wiring money to the scammers or purchasing pre-paid debit cards and giving them the card number, all in an attempt to avoid arrest. But there was no need to do that.
You may also note the poor English in the calls, which should be a red flag, but many people are so frightened that they miss that.
The IRS says:
- It will never call and threaten you with arrest, as it doesn't even have arrest powers.
- If there's a problem with your tax filing, the agency will send you a certified letter in the mail explaining what is wrong, and explaining your rights.
- It will never demand payment on the spot, without a hearing.
Bottom line: Never give money or information to someone who calls claiming to be from the IRS, so you don't waste your money.
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
Sign up for the free DWYM Newsletter delivered twice-weekly to your inbox