Don't be a victim
The Internal Revenue Service says it does not initiate contact with people who owe back taxes by phone or email. People who are contacted this way should be vigilant and be aware of other characteristics of a nationwide scam by which con artists are duping people out of money by convincing them they will be arrested if they don’t pay supposedly owed back taxes. These characteristics 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.
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 (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 as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484.
If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
A phone scam that started in December in California has reached Bulloch County.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, victims will receive a phone call from a person claiming to be an employee of the IRS. The "employee" goes into detail, claiming the victim owes money to the IRS, and that an arrest warrant has been issued.
Ty Hodges, of southern Bulloch County, was one of the many victims nationally, and one of three in Bulloch County, who received this phone call. Fortunately, she didn't fall for the scam.
"What they had done was, they had called a day or two before, and left a message on my answering machine saying that they were with the IRS, and that I needed to call them immediately," Hodges said. "That I had a pending warrant for my arrest and that they needed to talk to me about overdue back taxes, and that it was very important that I get back to them immediately."
On May 13, Hodges was home when she received another call from the supposed "IRS."
"The callers said, ‘There has been a warrant issued for your arrest, and somebody will be there in about 30 minutes because you owe back taxes, and we have repeatedly try to notify you,'" Hodges explained. "I don't owe any taxes, but he was adamant that I did."
Immediately after the call ended, Hodges called the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office to see if there was a warrant for her arrest. There wasn't.
Chief Deputy Jared Akins of the sheriff's office said if his agency does have a warrant for someone's arrest, it will do one of two things.
"A, they physically go and find the person, arrest them, and transport them to the Bulloch County Jail for processing," Akins said. "B, they may contact the person by phone, but they will advise them to turn themselves in to the Bulloch County Jail for processing."
Something that people may not know, IRS spokesman Mark Green said, is that the IRS does not contact people except through the mail.
"The Internal Revenue Service does not (solicit) through email, by text, by any social media, soliciting for credit card numbers, personal information or your Social Security number to pay a debt off," Green said.
The scam caller will say the victim could face up to six months in jail time if the debt is not paid. The scammer will then end the call.
Hours or even days after the initial phone call, victims will receive a second phone call from someone purporting to be a local sheriff's deputy supposedly confirming that the sheriff's office does in fact have a warrant for the victim's arrest. The "deputy" will then encourage the person to work something out with the IRS so that the warrant will be dropped. Then the "IRS" will call the victim again and explain that money can be transferred using a prepaid debit card or through a wire transfer.
More and more people are being convinced that this is actually the IRS and their local sheriff's office because when the call comes in, the caller ID reads "Internal Revenue Service" or the person's local sheriff office.
"The creative approach that the scam artists use is that they have a software system that on your caller ID the telephone number will show up as the Internal Revenue Service, or if there is such a thing, the Statesboro Police," Green said. "That adds a little bit more weight to the call because the caller then is attracted more to, this is a legitimate call, and I need to take care of this."
The IRS will never know exactly how much money these scam artists have stolen.
"That is a figure that we will probably never be able to capture for many reasons. One, of course, is victims who are part of the scam don't want to come out in the open and make it public that they unfortunately did fall for the scam, because of embarrassment," Green said.
The IRS and investigators also likely will never find out who the perpetrators are.
"What you have are copycats," Green said. "You have individuals that hear about this scam and hear about the success in targeting different individuals around the nation, and it grows. You have one individual that says they're going to try it, then another individual that says that they're going to try it."
Anyone receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS should hang up and call local police, then contact the Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration and then contact the IRS and notify those agencies.
Hodges sensed something wasn't right from the initial contact that the scam artist made with her. Although she didn't fall prey to the scam, that didn't stop her from being angry for other people's sake.
"It just makes me so mad that people could get cheated like that," Hodges said. "I can imagine in our economy how people that do owe (back taxes), and how many people are scared when they get that call. And they think if they do send them money, that's one more problem off their shoulders. And I hate that."