The Internal Revenue Service is warning Iowans about a sophisticated telephone scam targeting taxpayers.
Christopher Miller, the IRS spokesman for Iowa, says anyone may be at risk for getting one of these calls, but the con artists are also singling out recent immigrants, who may be easier prey.
“The victims are told that they owe money to the IRS and that the money has to be paid promptly through a preloaded debit card or a wire transfer,” Miller says. “If they refuse, they are threatened with arrest or deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.”
The scam is being used on taxpayers in nearly every state in the country — and he says they are calling Iowans. Miller says the agency wants to educate taxpayers so they can protect themselves.
“We want everyone to understand that the IRS will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone or request prepaid debit card or wire transfer information to settle a tax problem,” Miller says. “That’s not the way it works.”
The first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail, he says, not a phone call. Miller says this scam is particularly troubling as the con artists, in many cases, have gone to great lengths to appear legitimate.
“Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers and they may even be able to recite the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number, which is scary,” Miller says. “They have even figured out a way of ‘spoofing’ the IRS toll-free number so it shows up on your Caller ID.”
Some scammers have sent bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls. Victims may also hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic an IRS call site.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you might owe taxes, Miller says to call the agency at 800-829-1040 to see if there really is an issue. Otherwise, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.