Sheriff and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Warn of Phone Scam

Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith reports that the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration has issued a warning to the public concerning telephone calls being made claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in an effort to defraud them.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Mr. George noted that his office has received more than 20,000 contacts and has become aware of thousands of victims who have collectively paid over $1 million as a result of the scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials.

Sheriff Smith and Inspector General George urge residents to be aware of this sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers. Callers purporting to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.

In fact, the IRS usually contacts people by mail - not by phone - about unpaid taxes. Agents won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid card or wire transfer. They will not ask for credit card information over the telephone.

According to Inspector General George, the callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police, department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID again supports their claim.

Sheriff Smith and Inspector General George recommend the following action if contacted by someone claiming to represent the IRS asking for payment:

  • If you indeed owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Inspector General George’s office at 800-366-4484.
  • Anyone receiving calls or e-mails of this nature can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 222.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

Sheriff Smith and Inspector General George encourage taxpayers to be alert for phone and e-mail scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, texting or any social media. Forward suspicious e-mails to phishing@irs.gov. Do not open any attachments or click on any links in those e-mails.

“There are numerous scams aimed a defrauding the public,” said Sheriff Smith. “We must always be vigilant is protecting our identities when dealing with those soliciting for sweepstake and lottery winners or any other get rich schemes. Remember, if the offering is too good to be true, it often is,” concluded the Sheriff.