IRS phone scammers busted after stealing over $300 million

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IRS phone scammers busted after stealing over $300 million
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The IRS phone scam is basically the best gift that keeps on giving for criminals — as more and more Americans are duped into handing over money every day. 

But while this continues to be an ongoing and widespread problem in the U.S., consumers now have at least some good news!

Warning: IRS scammers are sending fake letters through the mail

Dozens charged with scamming people out of millions via fake IRS phone calls

The U.S. Department of Justice recently charged 61 people and groups with conspiracy and fraud tied to a scam involving phone calls from people claiming to be from the IRS and other government agencies.

The network of scammers stole money from at least 15,000 people — raking in more than $300 million, according to the U.S. government. The indictment includes 56 people and five call center groups in India.

Details about the scam

The Justice Department says that people from the call centers in India would dial numbers in the U.S. and claim to be an IRS or immigration official.

The U.S. government says the tactics used were very similar to other fake IRS scams — the caller would threaten the potential victim and if he or she believed it was real, the scammer would work with others involved to obtain the money.

According to one report, an 85-year-old woman was conned into handing over $12,000 to these criminals.

Read more: Beware of fake iTunes gift card scam

How to spot a fake IRS phone scam

Aggressive and threatening phone calls made by criminals impersonating the IRS continue to be a huge problem in the U.S. So it’s important that people understand not only how widespread and common the threat is, but also how to avoid it!

The scammers are targeting anyone and everyone, so it doesn’t matter if you’re young, old or in the middle — these criminals will do whatever they can to try to steal your information and money.

These thieves will also use a variety of threats to try to convince you that the call is real, including tax audits, back taxes, school taxes, jail time and more. If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, other government agency or anyone who claims you owe money — do not react immediately! You need to take steps to verify the call, the caller and the claim before you take any action.

According to the IRS website, the agency will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
     
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
     
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
     
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you still aren’t sure if it’s a scam or not, here’s what the IRS says you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
     
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” page or call 800-366-4484.
     
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
     
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

More ways to spot and avoid similar scams

For whatever reason, smartphones have caused people to let their guard down — and now more and more people are falling victim to various scams carried out via phone call, email and text message.

Scammers make themselves look legitimate so you will trust them — and they prey on people’s emotions and fears to get them to make fast decisions, before there’s even time to think it through.

So to help you avoid some common and ongoing scams, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
     
  • Take time to research any organization or group that reaches out to you directly.
     
  • Check them out on bbb.org, search online, etc.
     
  • Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know. Even with people you do know, do not provide this information via phone, email or text message.
     
  • Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
     
  • If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank or any other company, call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
     
  • Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
     
  • Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency. 

Read more: Beware of Social Security scam that will steal your money

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Alex Thomas Sadler About the author:
Alex is the former Managing Editor of Clark.com.
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