More than 1,000 people who have worked for the Archdiocese of Seattle in Washington state have been targeted in a nationwide IRS tax scam.
The Catholic News Service
reported that the victims, who are current and former employees and volunteers of the archdiocese, are among thousands of people across the country who have lost more than $1 million in the scheme.
which has been going on for months, involves people posing as IRS agents and calling people out of the blue to inform them that they owe taxes.
The scam artists warn the victims that unless they pay their outstanding taxes immediately by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, they will either be arrested, deported, or have their business confiscated.
The fraudsters are so sophisticated that they even have false IRS badge numbers, and often know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. They also have spoof IRS toll-free numbers on caller ID and follow up with fake IRS emails.
Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain said staff, volunteers, and former workers had been caught up in the scam, but did not know how their information was obtained by the perpetrators.
"We simply do not know how the problem originated, whether from our systems within the archdiocese … or another outside source," he said.
Greg Magnoni, archdiocesan communications director, said the organization has hired forensics experts to work with the FBI and IRS investigators to track down the fraudsters.
"We’re co-operating with them to get to the bottom of this," he said. We’re doing all that we can to give people an idea of what steps have been taken so far and what steps they can take to protect themselves."
The IRS, which warned taxpayers about the scheme in an online video last year, said the agency never calls people to tell them they owe taxes, instead contacting them first by mail, and it doesn’t demand payment by wire or debit card.
U.S. individuals have two more weeks to pay their 2013 taxes by April 15.
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