ATHENS, Ala. - WHNT News 19 was recently tipped off from a viewer about a popular IRS Scam making the rounds. Helena Gatlin of Athens got a threatening call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, saying she was part a lawsuit and she needed to pay up. The call even looked like it originated from Washington D.C.
“My heart skipped a beat,” said Gatlin, “and then I was scared, I mean here’s the IRS saying they have a lawsuit against you.”
Fortunately, Gatlin didn’t fall for it. But she called WHNT News 19 because she wanted to make sure others were on guard.
Our BBB says scammers are taking advantage of caller ID spoofing technology to pose as various organizations including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Treasury and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department. They are calling residents and demanding that they pay nonexistent fines. Here are the details for each type of these scam phone calls and how to avoid falling for them.
IRS: Scammers call saying that they are with the IRS and demand money or say that you have a refund due. These scammers can sound threatening and will likely urge you to act immediately, attempting to trick you into sharing private information which could ultimately lead to identity theft. They might even use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.
U.S. Treasury: Consumers report that they have been called by someone claiming to be from the "U.S. Treasury.” The caller told them that the tax return they submitted is fraudulent and there is a warrant for their arrest. Then the caller, who identified himself as “Steve Martin” to one consumer, demanded money immediately so that they wouldn’t be arrested.
Sheriff’s Department: Your caller ID says the number is the Madison County Sheriff's Department, so you answer. The "sheriff" tells you he is calling regarding back taxes, and if you do not pay immediately he will issue a warrant for your arrest. Of course, they will only accept a money order or pre-paid debit card for your payment. One caller reported that when he asked for a phone number to call the scammer back, the “sheriff” instructed that he call the phone number 256-715-1609, which is the number for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Division, and speak to Jacob Martin. This too is just a scam.
How do these scams work?
Scammers are using a computer program that changes the number recipients see on their caller ID. This is known as spoofing. The scam is popping up all around the country, with scammers spoofing different numbers depending on the victim's location.
Victims have reported that scammers' trickery doesn't end with faking a phone number. Some reports say that scammers used the names of specific local police officers. Others said that the con artists had personal information about the victims.
What to Do if You Receive Any of These Calls:
- Don't wire any money. The police, IRS or U.S. Treasury will not ask for payment over the phone, especially by money order or prepaid debit card. If you owe money to the IRS, they will send you a letter in the mail.
- Just hang up and don't call back. It is tempting to get the last word, but you may end up giving scammers information they can use later.
- Never give out your personal information. Caller ID spoofing makes it very easy for callers to pretend to be someone else. Scammers have also posed as immigration authorities and representatives of utilities companies. Be very skeptical of anyone who calls asking for money or personal information.
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.