A nationwide phone hoax is the "the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen," and taxpayers need to be weary of telephone calls from anyone claiming to be an IRS agent, the inspector general for the Internal Revenue Service said.
The scam has targeted more than 20,000 taxpayers and involves fake IRS agents who call taxpayers, saying they owe tax money to the government and demand immediate payment via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration said in a warning statement
to taxpayers Thursday.
If the victim doesn't comply, he or she is threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver's license.
"If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and uses threatening language if you don't pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn't the IRS calling," George explained.
If a similar phone call is received, taxpayers are advised to hang up and call the IRS directly to verify that the phone call is legitimate.
The IG's office explained that the IRS will always contact a taxpayer by mail first, in the case of unpaid taxes, before attempting to contact the individual by phone. The IRS will also never ask for payment with a prepaid debit card, wire transfer or credit card over the the phone.
The IRS scam has already cost taxpayers $1 million collectively.
"The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming," George said.
"At all times, and particularly during tax season, we want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals," he added.
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