• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 18s

IRS warns of biggest tax scam ever

By Kathy Kristof / CBS Money Watch 9:27 PM March 20, 2014

The sophisticated phone scam has hit victims in every state, tax officials say.

As if taxpayers don’t have enough to worry about. Thousands of Americans have been conned out of more than $1 million by crooks posing as IRS agents demanding tax payments, according to the U.S. Treasury.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, who says the agency has received more than 20,000 complaints about the fraud.

The sophisticated phone scam has hit victims in every state, tax officials say. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a prepaid 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.

To lend the scam credibility, the crooks often know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number, and the calls are made with spoofed caller identification software that makes it appear the call is originating from the IRS.

In many cases, taxpayers will get follow-up calls that appear to be from their state motor vehicle agency (if a driver’s license was threatened) or the police. The scammers also send follow-up emails that mimic the IRS insignia and even appear to be signed by real IRS officials.

“The increasing number of people receiving these unsolicited calls from individuals who fraudulently claim to represent the IRS is alarming,” George said. “Particularly during the tax filing season, we want to make sure that innocent taxpayers are alert to this scam so they are not harmed by these criminals. Do not become a victim.”

In reality, if you owe taxes, the IRS will contact you by U.S. mail — not email. The agency never asks for payment via debit card or wire transfer. It never asks you to provide a credit card number over the phone. And it never requests personal or financial information by e-mail, text or social media.

“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 is not the IRS calling,” George said.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you may owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury inspector general of tax administration at 1-800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
  • If you get an email that’s purportedly from the IRS, do not open any attachments or click on any links in the email. Send it to phishing@irs.gov.

Taxpayers should also be aware of other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes winner) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS. You can read more about identified tax scams at the IRS website, www.irs.gov.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Stories

  • News

    The deal is off: Berkowitz says muni won’t trade park land to airport

    by Daniella Rivera on Sep 03, 23:07

    A controversial land swap between the Municipality of Anchorage and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is off, according to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The deal would have turned some of Point Woronzof Park and part of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail into a runway. Many people in Anchorage who enjoy the park and trail and have been […]

  • News

    French investigators: Wing part is from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

    by CBS News on Sep 03, 22:35

    French investigators have formally identified a washed-up piece of airplane debris found in July on a remote island in the Indian Ocean as part of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 that disappeared more than a year ago with 239 people aboard. Investigators have been examining the wing part, called a flaperon, since it was […]

  • Weather

    Evening News Weather, Sept. 3

    by KTVA Weather on Sep 03, 21:26

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound Rain will be likely all across the Kenai and Prince William Sound for Friday as our current weather system will continue to bring showers to the area. Highs will be mainly in the mid 50s.   Southeast Further south, expect mostly cloudy skies with maybe a hit or miss shower while to […]

  • Lifestyle

    Swift swine race at the Alaska State Fair

    by Shannon Ballard on Sep 03, 21:15

    Which little piggy will win the big pig races the Alaska State Fair? Three times a day, six piglets get geared up and ready to run. They have some creative names, like Ham Solo and Lord Voldepork, but what you might not realize is these piggies sprint at about 17 miles per hour. They are American […]

  • On-Air

    Alaska Fishing Report for Sept. 3, 2015

    by Carlos Faura on Sep 03, 21:09

    Anchorage Lakes are getting better with the cooling water. Campbell Creek is OK for silvers and trout. Some silvers in Ship Creek below the dam.   Mat-Su Valley streams are getting better for trout. Lakes are cooling — that is good for fishing. Salmon runs are quickly winding down in the streams and rivers.   […]

  • News

    Nordstrom Rack opens in Anchorage

    by Lauren Maxwell on Sep 03, 20:59

    It was an event some shoppers said they’d waited years for as the new Nordstrom Rack opened its doors in Anchorage Thursday morning.  More than 500 shoppers lined up in the rain hours before the store even opened at the Sears Mall. By late afternoon more than 1,300 people had come through the doors. “One of […]

  • News

    Anchorage police warn drivers of recent uptick in vehicle thefts

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 03, 19:09

    The Anchorage Police Department says reports of stolen vehicles have gone up almost 60 percent in July and August. APD data shows 244 vehicles were reported stolen in the Municipality of Anchorage in July and August, compared to 153 stolen vehicles reported in May and June of this year, according to police. The National Highway […]

  • News

    Satellite images reveal scope of Alaska wildfire destruction

    by Eric Ruble on Sep 03, 18:56

    2015 will go down in history as one of the most destructive years for wildfires in Alaska. The state’s Division of Forestry said that more than five million acres have burned statewide since the start of the season. During his visit to Alaska, President Barack Obama said the wildfires were a result of climate change. […]