By: Laura Walton AFC®
to arrest you. You owe back taxes. You can avoid arrest by paying what you owe immediately. How soon can you get to a bank?” This is the gist of phone calls received recently by several Tucsonans. We all know that scam artists exist and even thrive but when you get the call, it’s anxiety producing nonetheless.
In one case, the caller even knew a few personal facts about the person – the sort of information that could have been obtained online and just enough to give the call some legitimacy. It’s easy to understand how some individuals fall into their trap.
We know the IRS doesn’t call but it still puts you on edge – could there be a problem with your taxes? In this case, the person called their accountant who happened to be on vacation. Their next call went to their financial advisor who assured them they were in good standing with the IRS and suggested their next call be to the sheriff who, in fact, verified they’d received several similar complaints recently.
According to an article in Friday’s USA Today, these types of calls are on the rise. Here are some of their tactics:
- They mail or fax falsified forms to trick people into verifying personal information. They then use that information to file a fake tax return in your name.
- Some claim to be from the Federal Trade Commission and say they are helping to recover money lost to a scammer (that’s creative).
- They even have caller ID set up so that it appears the call is from a valid IRS phone number.
- Some are using robocall technology complete with a digitized voice. Given our high-tech culture this, oddly, lends some legitimacy to the call.
- “Help us help you” is used to suggest if you comply today you can avoid future fines and costs.
The Tucson version, “you owe the IRS”, has tricked over 3,000 people nationwide and netted the scammers over $15 million since October 2013. The highest loss reported by one person was $500,000.
If you get a call or know someone who does, call the sheriff and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or TIGTA at 800-366-4484 at the integrity hotline. Consumers also can file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. Add the words “IRS telephone scam” to the comments in your complaint.