WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Aggressive calls from scammers claiming to be from the IRS have conned more than $5 million from U.S. taxpayers as the victims are told they owe thousands of dollars in back taxes and are threatened with repossession and jail time.
The sophisticated scam capitalizes on fear to steal tens of thousands of dollars from victims who are threatened with aggressive phone calls that even show up on caller I.D. tags as being from the Internal Revenue Service. CBS News reports that more than 90,000 people across the country have reported the hoax calls.
The scam begins with the victims, like Los Angeles resident Seila So, receiving a phone call by someone pretending to be from the IRS and claiming that thousands of dollars are owed in back taxes.
“I just felt stupid,” said Los Angeles resident Seila So. “I just felt dumbfounded that this happened to me…I didn’t think the IRS would tell me a lie.”
The caller told So in multiple conversations that she owed $30,000 in back taxes and threatened to freeze her bank accounts and put her in jail if she refused to pay the amount.
So has still not received any of the $30,000 she provided to the scammers through a MoneyPak card that is loaded with cash and then withdrawn through the untraceable method – and officials say the scammers are becoming increasingly bold.
“It’s definitely growing,” Terry Lemons, chief of communications at the IRS, tells CBS News. “What’s really different about this one is the aggressive nature of the phone calls. People calling and threatening to bring out local police, threatening deportation. These are not things that the IRS does.”
The IRS says that immigrants and the elderly have been targeted by the callers who mask their phone numbers with Washington D.C. and Los Angeles area numbers. “Internal Revenue Service” has even showed up on some victim’s caller I.D.’s.
“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, told Delaware Online. “The IRS respects taxpayers’ rights and these angry shake-down calls are not how we do business.”
IRS officials reiterated that the bureau would not call about taxes without first mailing an official notice. The IRS doesn’t demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to first question or appeal the amount owed. The IRS doesn’t ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Lastly, the IRS doesn’t threaten to bring in local authorities or other law enforcement groups to arrest someone for not paying.