A recent telephone scam came to light in late November when a Middle Tennessee resident was called by an imposter claiming to be an Internal Revenue Service agent, and was told they owed money to the government, and was given specific, and completely phony, payment instructions.
The intended victim was told they owed the government $6,429.
“He instructed the victim to go to a specific big box retail store (which had no involvement whatsoever in the scam) to get a prepaid card in that amount and to take it to the Clarksville IRS office," said Tim Van Cleve, who heads Rodefer Moss' Nashville office. "Scammers tend to prey on victims they can easily intimidate, and they tell the intended victims that unless they act immediately, they could be arrested, or forfeit their homes.”
Instead of buying the prepaid card the victim’s family contacted Rodefer Moss, who advised that the authorities should be called. Van Cleve said the dollar figure the intended victim was told they owed, is an important element in the scam. “It sounds more precise and realistic,” Van Cleve said. “A round number seems too easy, too convenient. The particular demographics of the intended victim makes me think the scammers may have demographic information they’re using to pick their targets.”
Van Cleve called the number and asked for the name left in the message.
“I was told that he was unavailable, and not to call back,” Van Cleve said, “and then the line went dead. Every attempt to redial the number was blocked; the phone rang and then went dead,” (we've since turned the number over to law enforcement).
“The IRS earlier this year released information that scammers routinely surface using various tactics,” Van Cleve added. “They use fake badge numbers, office locations, and names. They call from local numbers or rig the call-back number so they or their accomplices seem to be calling from an IRS number.”
Van Cleve said the IRS has specific information it has distributed on what to do if you believe you’re being targeted by a fake IRS scam:
- “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 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 1.800.366.4484.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose ‘Other’ and then ‘Imposter Scams.’ If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words ‘IRS Telephone Scam’ in the notes.”
The IRS will never initiate collections through a phone call, Van Cleve said. The IRS always contacts taxpayers in writing if it believes taxes are owed to the government, and the IRS never asks for a specific payment method, such as was tried in this recent scam attempt.