Personal Finance

IRS warns of telephone tax scam

The Internal Revenue Service is warning the public about a sophisticated phone scam in which fraudsters are able to recite the last four digits of a potential victim’s Social Security number.

Targeting recent immigrants, the scam has been detected in nearly every state in the country, the IRS said.

Victims are told they owe taxes to the IRS, which must be paid promptly through a preloaded debit card or wire transfer, the agency said. Taxpayers who refuse to cooperate are threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of business or driver’s licenses.

Scammers are using fake names and IRS badge identification numbers. The victim’s caller ID displays a bogus IRS toll-free number in a practice known as spoofing.

In addition, the scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their calls, and victims often hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site, the IRS said.

“After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up, and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim,” the IRS said.

Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement that if someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, “that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.”

Werfel said the IRS generally first reaches taxpayers about tax issues through the mail.

People who think they’ve been victimized should call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.