Parma Officials Warn Taxpayers of “Sophisticated Phone Scam”

Article by: Maura Zurick,

PARMA, Ohio – Con artists pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents are calling people all over the United States and demanding payment for overdue taxes, Parma Law Director Tim Dobeck warned.

The scammers are preying on the “most vulnerable members of society,” Dobeck said in a statement, adding the targets are usually elderly or newly arrived immigrants whose native language is not English.

He said the fake IRS agents’ preferred method of payment is either preloaded debit cards or wire transfers, and if the victim refuses to pay, he or she is threatened with arrest, deportation, property liens, suspension of a business or driver’s license.

“The caller often becomes hostile or insulting,” Dobeck said, adding if the call isn’t answered, the scammer leaves an ‘urgent’ callback request.

In another variation of the scam, the scammer tells the victim they have a tax refund to trick the person into sharing personal information.

Since October 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administrationreceived reports of roughly 736,000 such scams.

Nearly 4,550 victims have lost about $23 million as a result of the con, TIGTA reports.

Here are some tricks to watch out for:

  • Scammers may have knowledge of private information, such as the last four digits of social security numbers
  • The IRS toll-free number is spoofed on the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
  • Calls are often made by an automated robocall machine.
  • Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After the initial call, co-conspirators call victim pretending to be local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers by phone or email to demand immediate payment or about taxes owed without first mailing a bill.
  • The IRS will never demand payment of taxes without giving the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • The IRS will never require a specific payment method.
  • The IRS will never ask by phone or other electronic communication for private information, such as credit or debit card numbers, PINs, or passwords to bank accounts.
  • The IRS will never or threaten to involve local police or other law enforcement groups to arrest you for not paying.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS you should record the badge number, callback number and caller ID. Also, call local police to report the incident immediately, Dobeck said. Contact the Parma Police Department at 440-885-1234.

He also suggests reporting the incident to 800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.govand clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner.

For more information contact Mario J. Fazio, the Chair of our Tax Law practice group.