Latest Spin on the Infamous IRS Impostor Scam

From the start, this was no typical scam. Unlike previous IRS impostors, the fraudsters behind these phone calls weren’t just randomly trolling for personal information for identity theft.

These crooks already had some of it, including the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of those they called. That data, along the display of an IRS toll-free number on recipients’ caller ID, made their demands for money more convincing — and frightening.

Pay those back taxes immediately, they warned, or face the consequences: arrest; seizure of your home, property and driver’s license; or even deportation. And no checks or credit cards, only hard-to-trace wire transfers or preloaded debit cards such as a Green Dot MoneyPak.

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Now there’s more fueling the fear factor. In addition to (or paired with) “live” and robocalls, tax crooks are mailing and faxing their own falsified forms. “Taxpayers need to know that scammers have started sending fake documents to trick people into sending money or ‘verifying’ their personal information,” IRS spokesman Luis D. Garcia told reporter Susan Tompor.

If you respond, your sensitive info can be used to file a fake tax return and commit tax refund fraud. You might unwittingly add to the more than $20 million already lost to these crooks.IRS Mail Scam

According to the Don’t Mess With Taxes website, the IRS has “hundreds (of official letters) that criminals could imitate. Samples of the actual letters are not shown on the IRS website, but it does list the documents’ official numerical designations.”

This latest spin on the largest IRS phone scam in history, which generates the most citizen reports to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, (877-908-3360) is further proof of the ingenuity of these scammers and the damage they have caused.

As of August, at least $20 million in consumer losses were reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). And who knows how much more was swindled from those too embarrassed to come forward?

In addition, some 600,000 Americans have reported to TIGTA that they’ve been phoned by IRS impostors and been subjected to tactics such as threatening follow-up calls and emails from self-described police and Department of Motor Vehicles officials.

So why the mailings now? Those 600,000 reports to authorities offer some explanation: Folks have (somewhat) wised up to these phony phone calls. But the main reason is that USPS-delivered snail mail is how the real IRS notifies taxpayers of problems such as owed taxes.

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How can you distinguish the real from the rip-off? Contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 or your closest office. And remember, the IRS will not do the following:

* Ask for payment using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Those are the preferred payment methods of scammers because they are hard to trace and can be redeemed almost anywhere in the world.

* Demand immediate payment over the phone — or even call without having first mailed a bill.

* Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and gain access to a network of experts, law enforcement and people in your community who will keep you up to date on the latest scams in your area.

Photo: iStock

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