IRS telephone scam leads to escalating threats to
August 13, 2014
Santa Paula News
A man claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service that attempted to bully an area woman for “back taxes” might be threatening you next so be aware.
Joan Kus, of Santa Paula, the city’s retired Planning Director, received a voice message in recent weeks from a man who claimed she owed back taxes that must be paid immediately.
“Oh, I knew it wasn’t true,” said Kus of the message, left by a man “with a very thick accent... I really couldn’t understand much of what he said.”
She didn’t bother to return the call, which had the 202 Washington, D.C. area code, home of the Department of the Treasury and its Internal Revenue Service.
But the man called again, and when Kus answered she said he sounded “Very angry... “ claiming she owned back taxes and addressing various sanctions and punishments - including jail time - she would suffer if she did not pay the government debt.
When Kus told the man she did not owe taxes and challenged his claim of being from the IRS the conversation turned even uglier.
“He said he would kill me,” said Kus, who replied, “ ‘Well, maybe I’ll come out there and kill you... ‘ “
At that point, “He gave a really evil, nasty laugh... “ and Kus hung up.
She notified Santa Paula Police and tried to call an IRS Fraud Hotline, but the voicemail box was full.
Said Kus, “I just won’t be answering my phone for awhile... “
There have been numerous reports of attempted scams involving the IRS, the volume of which warranted a general warning from the agency.
In April the IRS issued “another strong warning for consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide.”
The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail and never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.
The IRS noted that people “have reported a particularly aggressive phone scam in the last several months,” that frequently targets immigrants. Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked.
According to the IRS statement, “Callers are frequently insulting or hostile,” such as reported by Kus, “apparently to scare their potential victims.”
But the scam might resort to good news; according to the IRS: “Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds... “
Either way, “When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.”
Other characteristics of the IRS scam can include: Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
Some reports have noted, “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 DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.”
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do: if you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats such as those issued to Kus and as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.