• 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

  • DayBreak

    Alaska volunteers help improve lives of those living in South Sudan

    by Daybreak Staff on Sep 27, 12:30

    Volunteers in Alaska have been working hard over the years to bring clean water, agriculture and health to the people of South Sudan. Now, they are hoping to raise $40,000 to continue their mission. Tuesday, the program director of the Alaska Sudan Medical Project, Jessi Curtis, joined Daybreak to talk about how the program started […]

  • DayBreak

    Alaska Aces help fight breast cancer through 5K race

    by Daybreak Staff on Sep 27, 12:27

    The Aces and SMG’s second annual 5K celebration kicks off Oct. 9. Proceeds from this event will benefit the Alaska Run for Women and go towards breast cancer research. Tuesday, Alaska Aces announcer Kurt Haider and Chelsa Adams joined Daybreak to talk about the importance of this year’s event. Alaska Aces & SMG 5k Sunday, […]

  • News

    Agency warns of solicitations for state trooper dog

    by Associated Press on Sep 27, 12:17

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The Department of Public Safety says fundraising efforts have begun in the name of a state trooper dog killed Sunday but that the department is not behind the effort. The department is not seeking donations and is warning against donating to solicitations on the “Go Fund Me” website. The agency says […]

  • News

    Palmer hunter dies when all-terrain vehicle flips in creek

    by Associated Press on Sep 27, 12:09

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A 59-year-old Palmer man overdue from a hunting trip was founded dead Monday afternoon beneath his all-terrain vehicle. Alaska State Troopers say the body of Michael D. Anderson was found in a creek. Investigators determined his all-terrain vehicle had flipped and pinned him in the water. Anderson had been hunting near […]

  • Crime

    APD: Former Anchorage School District employee charged with embezzlement

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 27, 10:31

      A former Anchorage School District (ASD) employee, and Eagle River woman, is accused of embezzling between $50,000 to $60,000 over a five-and-a-half-year period, according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department (APD). Kellie Fagan, 61, was the focus of a months-long audit and investigation by ASD and APD after it was discovered, in April, […]

  • Politics

    Miller laments Murkowski debate schedule as inadequate

    by Associated Press on Sep 27, 9:12

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has committed to participate in four debates and forums leading to the November general election, a slate that at least one of her rivals, Joe Miller, considers inadequate. The schedule released by the incumbent Republican includes a fisheries debate Oct. 12 in Kodiak; an Alaska Federation of […]

  • News

    3 separate collisions on Glenn Highway kill moose, delay traffic

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 27, 8:12

    A cow moose and her two calves were killed Tuesday morning in collisions with vehicles on the Glenn Highway. It was the first of three separate crashes the department responded to in the area during the morning commute. The first collision occurred at 5:50 a.m. when the moose were attempting to cross the Glenn Highway. […]

  • Crime

    Kotzebue jury convicts village man of murder, assaults

    by Associated Press on Sep 27, 8:01

    KOTZEBUE, Alaska (AP) – A 40-year-old northwest Alaska man was convicted Monday of first-degree murder at a trial in Kotzebue. Alaska State Troopers say Christopher Cleveland of Selawik (SEL’-a-wik) also was convicted of attempted murder, felony assault, burglary, weapons misconduct, furnishing alcohol to a minor and illegally selling alcohol. Selawik is a village of nearly […]